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Rough Winter On Game

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Many elk and deer must have perished from hunger and cold the
past winter 

The above headline and sub-head appeared in The Laramie Weekly Boomerang on May 27, 1897.

The winter of 1896-97 will long be remembered as a severe one on elk and deer.

Our readers are familiar with the story of vast herds of elk that wintered in Jackson Hole and their pitiful destruction, by the thousands, from starvation. But, this was not the only place they were compelled, on the account of deep snows, to leave the mountains and come down to the lowlands for food.

Harry Hunter, manager of the Big Creek Livestock Company, who was in the city yesterday, says thousands of deer were driven down out of the mountain ranges surrounding North Park, and their hunger made them so tame they would feed with cattle in the fields and wherever else they could find sustenance. 

Hunter had cattle in the park during the later part of the winter, and he says he has seen great droves of deer in the close vicinity of his cattle. The same thing took place on the Snake River, we are informed, and deer were lower down in the valley than ever before.

All of this indicates mountain ranges are now lying under a heavier coat of snow than for many years before, and game, especially deer and elk, which live in the mountain fastness during the winter, has suffered more than for a long period. – “30”

Wildlife wasn’t the only species suffering during this winter, as illustrated by this story from the history of the Pick Ranch. It was noted:

It was realized after the harsh winter of 1886-87 cattle would not survive without supplemental hay in hard winters. In those years, many cattle barons were wiped out due to large cattle losses. 

An old-timer in the area tells of hearing of this awful winter when “you could walk from French Creek to Pick Ranch stepping on cattle carcasses the entire way.” 

This taught cattlemen that their herds could not be wintered successfully without hay obtained from irrigated pastures. . . but, then, that’s another story.

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