This buck swam the Mississippi River 4 times in 2 years. Is he the Michael Phelps of deer?

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Buck No. 140 fascinated Mississippi and beyond. He was documented swimming across the Mississippi four times.

Was Buck No. 140 the Michael Phelps of deer when it comes to the distance the deer swam? Surprisingly, no.

Buck No. 140 rose to fame in 2021. He was captured and outfitted with a GPS collar in late 2020 for a study conducted by Mississippi State University and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Parks and Fisheries. The goal was to develop a method of getting a reliable estimate of deer population density using only camera traps.

In the spring of 2021, the buck did something unexpected. He made an 18-mile journey from the South Delta into Louisiana which included crossing the Mississippi River.

Not only did he cross the river, he did it during a flood and swam an estimated 1.25 miles.

GPS-collared swimming deer: It’s Arkansas for the win

Deer that swim open water recently became the topic of an article by National Deer Association biologist Matt Ross. He asked wildlife researchers across the nation for documented examples of GPS-collared deer swimming across bodies of water and the distances.

For the vast majority of the article, Buck No. 140 appeared to be a sure bet for a gold medal in distance, but right at the finish line, a bombshell came from Arkansas. Not one, but two bucks from The Natural State swam greater distances.

Buck No. 140 finished with bronze.

In a study conducted in Arkansas from 2009-2012, a total of five GPS-collared deer crossed the Mississippi River and two surpassed Buck No. 140. Deer No. 79847, a 2.5-year-old buck, made a 1.4-mile crossing of the Mississippi River. Deer No. 79843, a 2.5-year-old buck, almost doubled Buck No. 140’s personal best with a 2.4-mile crossing of the Mississippi River.

The study was conducted at the Freddie Black Choctaw Island Wildlife Management Area in Southeast Arkansas. It was conducted by the University of Arkansas.

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Researchers learn about deer and flooding

“Initially, the main objective was to look at deer habitat use that is frequently flooded,” UA professor of wildlife ecology Don White, Jr., who conducted the study along with team members, told the Clarion Ledger. “How do deer use habitat when their environment is filled with water?”

The WMA is one of those environments because it’s located inside the Mississippi River levees.

Eighteen deer were outfitted with GPS collars and the data they provided shed more light on deer behavior in floods. White said one of the things they observed was it doesn’t take much water to force deer out of an area.

He noted that five of the collared deer did not leave the area during a flood and all died. The 13 other deer survived. He also pointed out that the deer in the study returned to their home ranges as soon as the water receded.

Outside of the scope of the study, it showed what powerful swimmers deer are. White said swimming across the river seems like a bad idea on a good day and during a flood it seems worse. However, some did it and White said one deer crossed up to seven times during the study.

“I figured they cross the river,” White said. “I just didn’t think they’d do it at flood stage.

“From what I’ve seen, deer will take to the river without hesitation. Deer are world-class athletes.”

Contact Brian Broom at 601-961-7225 or