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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