Massive Deer Herd Fell To Death Near Bishop Pass


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Ice climber
Topic Author's Original Post - Nov 20, 2017 - 07:48am PT

"Brad was down at Mac's Sporting Goods and got the whole story on this. Apparently last night, these deer and many, many others (around 100 deer) were trying to make their way to their wintering grounds on this side of the mountains and hit ice on very steep areas. From below Lone Pine to Bishop Pass these deer hit the ice and tumbled down the steep boulders to their deaths, or to mortal injury. Brad was told that the couple in the picture were actually slitting the throats of the mortally injured in order to put them out of their pain. In the nearly 40 years I've been in this Valley, I have never heard of such a terrible tragedy happening to our deer herds. They suffered 4 years of drought, then a terrible winter with a devastating winter die-off, and now this. It will take many years for our herds to rebuild from this loss."

High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Nov 20, 2017 - 07:50am PT

Any other pics showing more of the scene?

in the land of the blind
Nov 20, 2017 - 08:01am PT

From below Lone Pine to Bishop Pass . . .

What doe this mean? We’re there multiple incidents?

Trad climber
Carson City, NV
Nov 20, 2017 - 08:01am PT
The bucks tend to hang back and wait till hunting season is over before heading out of the high country. I suspect it's cause/effect but really don't know.
Does anyone know if the hunting permits for this zone were reduced after last winters die off?
What a tragedy. Mule deer are a favorite of mine. I often have had the desire to study them and they seem to like me.
Does especially seem to like bedding down near me while backpacking. Had one follow me for 2 days in Le Conte canyon.
Very sad news.
Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Nov 20, 2017 - 08:11am PT
This happened at the same spot back in the 80s ... are you sure this isn't fake news?

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
Nov 20, 2017 - 08:11am PT
Pretty common.......I'd say "tragedy" or is pretty strong language. Migration is dangerous business. We "spectators" find these events hard to see but it truly is part of the cycle of life. Its like watching a rabbit flee from a bobcat on Nat Geo. We find ourselves cheering for the pretty little rabbit rather than the hungry bobcat. If we had a birds-eye view of an entire migration we might find it quite startling to watch the decay rate from point A to point B. Large parts of herds die swimming, slipping, starving, all year every year. Welcome to the wild.

Trad climber
Polebridge, Montana
Nov 20, 2017 - 08:18am PT
We wouldn't have wolverines without those kinds of accidents, including avalanches. Life and death.

Social climber
Nov 20, 2017 - 08:29am PT
The homeless will be having venison for Thanksgiving.

Trad climber
Nov 20, 2017 - 08:32am PT
How large are the herds?
I have seen herds of hundreds of antelope but never such large numbers of deer together

Mountain climber
Nov 20, 2017 - 08:44am PT
I've read other reports saying that forty died, and it was caused by rockfall.
Edit: the guy, seen in the picture, was one of two people who were supposedly slitting the throats of the survivors( to put them out of their misery).

Trad climber
the middle of CA
Nov 20, 2017 - 09:17am PT

Nov 20, 2017 - 08:32am PT
How large are the herds?
I don't have numbers from scientific studies, but on a slope in the SW edge of SEKI I lost count at 160 one year. My friends and I kept watching and estimate we lost count at less than half of the total number that walked by. It was pretty awesome.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Nov 20, 2017 - 09:23am PT
^^^^ That sounds a great experience, Limpie. To put it in perspective when Lewis and Clark
were floating down the Missouri they passed a bison herd they estimated to be 7 miles long
and up to a mile wide, and densely packed!

Ice climber
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 20, 2017 - 09:36am PT
This year the tags in both X9a & X9B were cut from ~600 each to about 200 in each zone, tags are bucks only. It previously took 4 or 5 years to draw a tag in one of those zones so times that by 3 so about 12 years to draw. The deer didn't go back up this year until July because of heavy snow and they will stay up until the weather chases them down, not the hunters. Conditions were perfect for this type of tragedy, a late winter and an iced up migration route. It happens every year to some extent but never this bad.
Highway 168 is the border with X9A to the North & X9B to the South.

Trad climber
the middle of CA
Nov 20, 2017 - 09:41am PT
That would be a lot scarier, Reilly

Ice climber
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 20, 2017 - 10:36am PT
The place in question is like the main trail on Mt Whitney switchbacks where they put the cable up, if it's icy you're going over the side.
87 deer didn't get caught in a rockfall as it wasn't a single event in a single day. Have you ever been to Bishop pass ?

"I imagine the herd was standing on the edge of a cliff that collapsed"

please think this through
(historical photo)


Trad climber
Nov 20, 2017 - 01:09pm PT
Found a small pile(3-4 deer) at the ORG one time near Pick Pocket if memory serves me correctly. Something prolly spooked them and they followed the leader the wrong way over the edge.

Nov 20, 2017 - 03:42pm PT

Nov 20, 2017 - 03:51pm PT
The ecological situations pertaining to white-tailed deer in the eastern U.S. and to mule deer (specifically the subspecies present in the Sierra) are completely different; the item linked above is completely irrelevant to the present thread. The incredible population explosion of white-tailed deer is indeed causing some ecological disruption, including some formerly common plant species that are important to the whole ecosystem having become rare. (Not too concerned about people's yards and gardens being raided - deal with it.) And there are just about no predators there. The West has robust populations of coyotes and mountain lions which keep the deer numbers in check.

Regarding the herd sizes, mule deer spend most of the year in small groups, but in migration, especially fall migration which has pretty specific weather triggers, they can herd up in really big numbers on the east side of the Sierra. I've seen hundreds crossing Hwy 395. It's really dramatic.

Big Wall climber
Denver, CO
Nov 20, 2017 - 04:23pm PT
100 dead? Yikes!

Was the shooter killed or arrested, or did ze commit suicide?

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, California
Nov 20, 2017 - 05:08pm PT
Ban ice, snow, water, and steam, they are all killers.
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