Page images
PDF
EPUB
[graphic][merged small]

THE WHITETAILED (VIRGINIA)

DEER AND ITS KIN
ODOCOILEUS AMERICANUS (ERXLEBEN, 1777)

)
BY ERNEST THOMPSON SETON

ILLUSTRATIONS BY THE AUTHOR

NE Thomas Hariot, an Eng- ton, writing of New England and its Deer

lish mathematician in the (1637) says: “There are in the countrey service of Sir Walter Ra- three kindes of Deare, of which there are leigh, visited Virginia in great plenty, and those are very useful.” 1584, and in his account of Just what writers meant by “great plen

the Colony (pub. 1588) he ty,” I have endeavored to ascertain. says: “Of Beastes” — “Deare, in some In the season of 1895 the official returns places there are great store; neere into showed that 4,900 deer were killed in the the sea-coast, they are of the ordinairie Adirondacks. It is notorious that official bignes as ours in England, & some less; but returns are far below the actual slaughter, further

up in the countrey where there is for we must add those killed illegally durbetter feed, they are greater. They differing or out of season, as well as those that from ours only in this, their tailes are longer, were killed and not found. There is also a and the snags of their hornes look back- proportion destroyed by natural enemies, so wards."

that we need not hesitate to accept the There is no doubt that Cartier saw the Chief Protector's estimate that 10,000 deer Whitetail in 1535, but Master Hariot, the were killed in the Adirondacks during the mathematician, has given us the first iden- season of 1895. tifiable description of the species, and it is But this must have been far less than half by good right called Virginia Deer. their numbers, otherwise they could not

In speaking of it the early travellers use stand the drain, as they evidently do. I have expressions that tell of astounding num- heard hunters estimate that under the most bers. Thus Cartier's “great stores of Stags, favorable circumstances, the Deer do not Deere," etc., Hariot's "great store.” Mor- add more than a third cach year by actual increase. If, therefore, more than a quarter But the accounts of the hunters put the are killed in a season, it means a falling off. Whitetail far in advance of all other small But the Adirondack Deer are holding their Deer in point of numbers. Therefore I feel own, and I should therefore estimate their satisfied that ten to the square mile is a safe numbers at 40,000, or, roughly, three to a estimate of Whitetailed population in its square mile.

true region, the immediate Mississippi ValThe official report for Maine gives 7,579 ley and the country to the east of it. This Deer killed in 1899, which we are to believe area was roughly 2,000,000 square

milesmeans a destruction of at least 12,000 Deer. that is, it was the home of not less than 20,But they have ample room and are steadily 000,000 Whitetailed Deer. increasing, so that I put those in Maine at Even ignoring the other 100,000 square not less than 60,000, or about two to the miles of Whitetail range to the westward, as square mile in 1900. Mr. W.T.Hornaday* it certainly was much less thickly stocked, gives the estimate of Deer in Maine at 100,- we still see that the Whitetail was probably 000, or three to the square mile in 1904. the most abundant large game of temperate

[graphic][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

All records agree, however, that the Deer North America, excepting the Buffalo, and in the Adirondacks and Maine now are as possibly ranking after that and the Caribou nothing to those of days gone by; thus Mor- among all the big game of the continent. ton says of those in New England (1637): Although the map of to-day shows a wide “There is such abundance that 100 have distribution, it is on a very different basis been found at the spring of the year, within from that of two hundred years ago. The the compass of a mile.” But even this we Adirondacks, northern New England, are told was far surpassed by the “incred- northern Michigan, northeastern Texas, ible hosts” of the Middle States east of the and the dry parts of Florida, aggregating Mississippi and of Texas. In the last State 100,000 square miles, may yet show an averabout 1850, I am credibly assured by many age of three Deer to the square mile. But we old hunters, “500 in one bunch” were must consider the species absent from Ohio, commonly met with in the half-open Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, country. Thousands could sometimes be Kentucky, the northern half of Missouri, seen in a day; they were there in tens of and the southern halves of Minnesota, Wisthousands.

consin, Michigan, New York, and Ontario, The numbers in Kentucky were so great a total area of about 600,000 square miles that it was believed impossible to extermi- of their best country. And the rest of nate them.

the region marked for Whitetail in presIn the mountains of Colorado I have seen ent times is so nearly without them that Mule Deer so plentiful that ten to the one Deer to five square miles would be a square mile would have been a very lowesti- liberal estimate. These figures would make mate, indeed, and twenty would be safe for the entire Whitetail population north of the the region.

Rio Grande somewhere about 500,000. The *" Am. Nat. Hist.," 1904, p. 131.

State of Maine, therefore, has now one-fifth

[graphic][subsumed][merged small][merged small]

of the Deer in the country, because she has between antlers, 264 inches; length from learned that they are worth keeping. tip of nose to tip of tail, 9 feet 7 inches."

The map illustrates an interesting fact in To this Mr. A. N. Cheney adds: “I have Whitetail distribution—while the species talked with Mr. Patterson, who is a brother has lost much territory in the east and cen- of ex-District Attorney Patterson, of Warter of its range, it has also gained a great ren County, since his letter was printed, deal in the north and west. The reason for and he added to the figures given that this will be seen in its habits, especially in the Deer measured 37 inches around the its adaptability to agricultural conditions. neck, back of the head, and that the longest

Had the map been made in 1890 instead spike on one beam was 13 inches. The of 1900, it would have given a still smaller buck had been seen on several occasions range; 1890 seems to have been the low-ebb during two or more years before it was year for much of our wild game east of the killed, and a number of sportsmen had Mississippi. Twenty years ago the Deer made special efforts to kill it. It appeared were exterminated in New England, except to have no fear of dogs that were put on in the remote north woods. Now they have its track, and on one occasion attacked and repossessed the whole country, even to the drove off two." gates of New York City. Within the last But these are the giants of their kind. year wild Deer have been seen about Green- The average dressed weight of 562 Deer wich, and even in Yonkers.

shipped out of the Adirondacks by the

Express Company in 1895 was* only 1097 On the map I have not attempted to show pounds-a live weight of 1361 poundsthe limits of different races or species of each; but this included many small Deer Whitetail now recognized by naturalists. and August specimens of all ages and There are some twelve of these, graded sexes. An average full-grown buck of the from very small in Florida and Mexico to region is about 200 pounds live weight, very large in Maine and Manitoba, and and the average doe 150 pounds. from very dark in the Southeast to very The other extreme is found in a Mexpale, with greatly enlarged white areas, in ican species of which Caton says: “The the Northwest.

smallest of the North American Deer Bucks of the Florida Deer (0. osceola), which I have studied is the Acapulco Deer. rarely weigh over “110 pounds” (Cory), Some of the specimens which I have had and ordinarily as low as 80 pounds (C. A. weighed only about 30 or 40 pounds." Brambly); the does are proportionately less. There is another interesting dwarf, or This represents the Southeastern extreme myth, to be considered. A curious battle of size.

has raged for long between two partiesIn the north we have a very different the hunters in the West and the scientists animal (0. A. borealis).

in the East-over the Gazelle, Cottontail This is commonly said to attain a maxi- or Fantailed Deer. Every old hunter that mum weight of 350 pounds, but I find I have asked assures me that in the early good testimony for much higher weights. days of the West there existed a dwarf Mr. John W. Titcomb, of the Bureau of Whitetail in the thickets along the mountFisheries, says that two bucks weighing ain streams of the upper Missouri. respectively 370 pounds and 420 pounds It resembled the Texan Fantail (0. were killed in Vermont in 1899.

texensis, Mearns), which is found in the The most remarkable Adirondack buck high mountains of the Texas and Mexican that I can find authenticated is described country. The scientists deny that any by Mr. James M. Patterson in Colonel such creature ever existed, excepting in Fox's Forestry Report. It was killed by Mr. the far Southwest, and pointedly demand Henry Ordway in 1890. "Weight before the production of hair, hide, skull or footbeing dressed 388 pounds [bleeding must anything, in fact, except a lot of gauzy have robbed it of 8 or 10 pounds, so that camp-fire tales. its live weight was about 400 pounds), I could give some interesting extracts height over withers 4 feet, 3 inches. There from the trappers' stories, but will content are 9 prongs on one antler and 10 on the myself for the present by stating that all other. Length of antlers, 32 inches; distance

* According to Colonel Fox's report.

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed]

Range of Whitetail in primitive times and in 1900, by Ernest Thompson Seton.
The heavy line shows the original range-not fully worked out in Mexico. The tint shows the range in 1900. In the three large white areas, comprising the Atlantic coast,

the Middle States and the tar Northwest, the species has been exterminated, but in northern Canada and New England it has followed the settler and gained much territory. The recent extension into Utah is due to irrigation inaking more country possible for the species. No attempt is here made to demark the various species or races. Out. lying or doubttul records are marked with a cross (x). In compiling this map I have used all available data in the records of several hundred ancient and modern travellers.

« EelmineJätka »