Creative Commons photo.
GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK — The scientific community was stunned Friday morning after a report in the journal Nature indicated that National Park Service biologists had uncovered the elusive elevation that deer turn into elk.
Conducted in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, the study put to rest longstanding questions pondered by generations of gapers regarding the approximate altitudinal relationship between deer (Cervidae) and their girthy-throated cousins, elk (Cervus canadensis).
According to Teton Park biologist Gregor Chauncey, his study identified a causal relationship between altitude and species, with ungulates residing below 8,500' identifying as deer and those above identifying mostly as elk, although some exceptions are common in specialized populations.
Long regarded as urban myth, Chauncey's research team was shocked to discover the altitudinal dynamic and were forced to rewrite dozens of interpretive boards around Grand Teton and Yellowstone.
"It was a total pain in the ass," he told TGR while detailing the long process of rewriting ungulate biology.
Many in the scientific community were in disbelief, with the hobbyist group Ungulate Lovers United (ULU) contesting the findings and insisting that deer and elk are — and always have been — two completely separate species.
They should be able to decide for themselves where to live and how to ungulate.
"These findings are bullshit!" ULU president Gabby Galice insisted during a heated phone call. "Just because you have some precocious deer trying to become elk doesn't make it true."
However, many naturalists kept an open mind to the findings, insisting that both deer and elk should be able to make up their own mind about what altitude identification is better-suited to their ungulate disposition.
"They're all a part of the same ecosystem," park visitor Patty Jones told TGR. "They should be able to decide for themselves where to live and how to ungulate."
From The Column: The Bumion
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