While it may look like a grisly trophy, the story behind the picture of the antler-locked bucks above is one of survival and endurance. I recently spoke with Luke Laha, a wildlife management instructor in Kansas, about how he and his students rescued an antler-locked deer that had been carrying around the head of his rival.
So how did this deer come to be wearing such bizarre headgear? Laha said that there was once a body attached to that head, before the coyotes came.
Laha works as an instructor at Pratt Community College’s Wildlife Enterprise Management program, and he first saw the deer while scouting out some territory in south-central Kansas. The encounter was a fleeting one, but Laha said that the deer remained in the back of his mind for months.
“I saw it was a decently-sized buck with what I thought at the time was a smaller buck,” Laha said. “But then I saw that all the was left of the second one was the head, spine, and rib cage.”
That was about two months ago. To the coyotes living in the area, the buck was a moving feast. Laha was not able to help the deer on their first meeting, but he remembered the encounter when he and his students came back to the property to trap some ‘yotes. He expected to find the remains of one or both of the deer earlier this year. But he hoped he would find the buck alive and asked his students to keep an eye out for a deer with a rack too many.