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The Cherokee lived in harmony with wildlife and nature in the mountains and foothills for centuries.  However, as European traders and settlers came into the area overhunting for meat, fur and hides led to a
decrease in the number of game animals.

By the early 1900s the white-tail deer population had declined to the point of concern.  George Vanderbilt undertook efforts to re-stock deer on his vast estate.  Then, following the creation of the Pisgah National Forest, a game preserve was established leading to a rebound in the number of deer in this relatively
safe environment.

During the 1930s the herds were large enough that hunting was allowed in some years. Deer were also captured and transported to others areas of North Carolina and surrounding states where white-tail deer had nearly disappeared.

Two small fawns at the Fawn
Rearing Station.

A fawn rearing station was operated in the Pink Beds area of the Pisgah National Forest.  The Forest Service paid four dollars for each fawn, which was then hand-raised at the fawn farm. The fawns were cared for by Forest Service employees and CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) members.  They bottle fed the young deer every six hours around the clock. Initially cow’s or goat’s milk was used but in 1937 they began using diluted canned evaporated milk which was richer and had a higher fat content. The fawns also received doses of castor oil and vitamins as needed.

Blankets were used to keep the youngest fawns warm on chilly nights.  Precautions were also taken not to frighten them with loud noises, such as automobiles.  As the fawns grew they were fed just twice a day, then taught to eat a grain mixture.  Finally they were placed in larger fenced areas to graze on their own.

In addition to the fawns, rangers would care for injured adult deer.  Both fawns and adult deer were shipped throughout the southeast to increase herds elsewhere.

Albert Lyday, who was in charge of the Pisgah Forest Fawn
Rearing Station for several years, fills nursing bottles for
over 100 fawns four times a day.  Wayne Mathis with the CCC
places nipples on the bottles.

Data was also collected to study the habits of the white-tail deer and the diseases that affected them.  Fredrick J. Ruff’s 1937 study, “The Whitetail Deer of the Pisgah National Game Preserve” remains valuable in deer management today.

Newspaper and magazine articles, as well as news reels shared the story of the Pisgah Fawn Rearing Station across the country making it popular for tourists.  Hundreds of visitors received special permission to tour the fawn farm each year.

Budget cuts and the success of repopulating white-tail deer led to the program being
phased out in the early 1940s.

Fawns eagerly gather at feeding time.

Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. For more information, comments, or suggestions contact NCRoom staff at [email protected]
or 828-884-1820.

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