Default Photo.

The number of game birds and animals taken over the course of the Lewis and Clark expedition from St. Louis to the Pacific and back can’t be accurately determined. But we do know that the travelers depended on hunting for subsistence, and they were very good hunters.

The first elk was killed near present-day Omaha on Aug. 1, 1804, William Clark’s 34th birthday. The first buffalo was taken Aug. 23, 1804, near what is now Vermillion, S.Dak., where Meriwether Lewis saw vast herds of the animals. John Colter shot the first mule deer on Sept. 17, 1804, also in South Dakota. The first grizzly bear was killed at the mouth of the Yellowstone River on May 5, 1805. It took Clark and George Drouillard 10 shots to put the bruin down for keeps.

Besides Lewis and Clark, others in the party kept journals of the trip, but everyone had different recollections. Often the entries say “we killed a number,” “a few,” “several” or “many.” Still, it’s possible to come up with a fairly accurate count. When I tallied up all the numbers, I added three to the total when “a few” was mentioned and five when “many” or “several” was used. Not counting prairie dogs and other birds and animals collected as specimens, it’s still an impressive list.–Roger D. Wendlick

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]


Deer | 1,111
Elk | 418
Antelope | 69
Bighorn sheep | 38
Bison | 241
Grizzly bears | 43
Black bears | 21
Bobcats | 1
Beaver | 170
Otter | 18
Geese/brant | 121
Ducks | 23
Grouse | 104
Turkeys | 39
Wolves | 12