Merriam's elk in New Mexico
Posted March 19 2012 - 03:20 PM
Posted April 23 2012 - 08:46 AM
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Posted April 23 2012 - 10:24 AM
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.
Posted April 25 2012 - 09:14 AM
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.
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