Thursday, May 29, 2008

Dead deer

Well the winter here was brutal and isn't really over yet. We had snow a few days ago with plenty in the mountains. It still freezes consistently... We had a few warm days (mid 70s) and the river started to flood the low lying areas. But then it cooled off again and the river is only pretty darn high... (see here for current and past stream flows of Gunnison River).

So the skiing ended with me just sick of it April 1 as many of my friends are still hiking up the mountains and back country skiing. So now I'm biking and trying to get in good enough shape to do the Leadville 100 mountain bike race. I did it in 2006 in 8:32 which isn't half bad. I got a BIG belt buckle anyway. See my link to the right.

The biking started out in April as just road riding as the snow was so deep everywhere. The snow being so deep was really hard on the deer and antelope as they had a hard time getting through it and finding food. April was also cold with most rides being between 40F and 28F. If the sun was out it wasn't terrible. Now nearly the end of May the temperatures are usually around 70 by 1 or 2 up from 30 at 8am. So here are some ramblings about the dead deer.

With the snow being over three feet deep pretty much every where in the valley the deer tended to congregate at lower elevations and near the highway where the roads were plowed. All winter the DOW fed the deer and you could see hundreds of them on the hills near by if you drove the highway. Most of the time they were either laying down in groups usually where there was a small cut in the hillside from a stream and/or cottonwood were present or were on the move looking for food (this is a bad sign in the middle of the day as it meant they were starving. East of town had the higher concentrations. Fast forward from Jan and Feb to April as the snow finally starts to melt and I rode the highway east of town. I passed hundreds of deer that didn't make it with a few antelope and elk mixed in. Elk with longer legs fared better while in this area there weren't too many antelope in the first place. Many of the small groups in the trees and ravines didn't make it. Looking into these areas you could see the brown shapes of the groups of deer--almost looking like they were sleeping. Many deer closer to the road had shade the snow they died on so they were 2-3 feet higher than the more bare ground on the snow with legs pointing towards the sky. Many of the deer were dangling on fences. In the deep snow they had a real hard time jumping the fences and in a weakened state many of them met their fate here. I then rode to highway 114 which is a much small road and climbs a bit. About 10 miles up this road I came to rancher's haystack that the deer got into in the winter. This was a strange site. The DOW had said not to feed deer hay as they couldn't live on it. Sure enough there were 20-30 dead deer actually laying on the hay dead. Many more could be seen in the ravines nearby.

Fast forward a month to the end of May. Some mountain biking had opened up near town at Hartman Rock in the middle of May and most of the snow around town had melted. Above 8500ft in elevation it is still really wet and snowy. Now the deer can be smelled well before they are seen. They seem to be disintegrating--hair scattered everywhere, some areas bones and hair are all that's left.....

The next race for me is a 64 mile mt bike race called the Gunnison Growler at Hartmon Rock June 8.... Ouch.

No comments: