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Merriam's elk in New Mexico


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#1 SilentButDeadly

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After seeing all the pics of fresh bone this afternoon, I started thinking about the extinct Merriam's elk and decided to do some library work (I work at The UofA). I Googled an old Mammal's of New Mexico text by Bailey (1931) and headed over to the Science Library to get my hands on it.Took these photos of the text and plates (thanks for cell phone cams huh!) Heavy horns, the text says the main beam was over 65 inches, with 7 3/4 first mass measurements!!

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#2 billrquimby

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Interesting. Thanks for posting.

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#3 Chef

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Pretty cool.
I gotta get home tonight and read the pages. Thanks for taking the pic for us.
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#4 CouesWhitetail

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Interesting post....somehow I missed this back in March. Thanks.
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#5 billrquimby

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Among the things I found interesting is that Bailey wrote about a separate population of Merriam's elk along the Arizona border in far eastern New Mexico, and mentioned that shed elk antlers had been plentiful there.

I just finished reading the biography of a trapper named Nat Straw who operated in that region in the late 19th century. He trapped everything from grizzly bears to a jaguar, but not once did he mention the word "elk" in all the times he was interviewed by Dobie and others.

Straw said he shot mule deer to bait his grizzly traps. If he had encountered elk, he would have shot them also, but he never mentioned them.

The pioneer ranchers the author interviewed also never mentioned seeing elk before 1900.

Also, although the book had very early photos of cabins and barns in the area with mule deer antlers on their exterior walls, not one had an elk rack on it.

I've read most of the books written about early houndman Ben Lilly, who hunted bears and lions across New Mexico and Arizona, including the alleged range of Merriam's elk. I don't remember any of his biographers mentioning his encountering elk.

Strange ...

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#6 Alpinebullwinkle

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Very interesting post. Thank you for your efforts in sharing. I can add a little bit of local history to this story. Jess Burk whom homesteaded the Beaverhead Ranch in unit #27 found two sets of Merriam elk racks in a cave off Buckalou sometime in the 1920's. These racks were handed down to his nephew, Jim Grammer, who bought the ranch from his relative some time in the 1950's. Unfortunately Jim passed away last year at the age of 86 but told this story to our family many times. Jim ended up with both sets of the Merriam horns given to him from his Uncle Jess. Jim ended up donating one set of horns to the U of A college and received a scholorship for his daughter in return. The other set of horns made its way to the Smithsonian Institute.

From what I have read most of the elk in the Alpine District were whiped out when the pioneers arrived in the late 1880's. The winters were very severe and the elk and deer were their primary food source for survival. The settlers and ranchers that ended up in the area did an efficient job of predator control for their ranching efforts so when elk were reintroduced they actually have thrived better than ever before in history.......that was until about 1999 when the current elk herd hit its all time high peak level. Since trapping was banned and now that the wolf reintroduction program gained momentum in the late 1990's the predator situation now mirrors more of what district looked like prior to the settlers arriving. As a result of the increased predation our elk herd in unit #27 is now about half of the peak in 1999. AGF data confirms these numbers also.

#7 brent

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Thanks for the info guys; answered some of the questions I had about the merriams.




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