Solving Problems with Nature - Naturally
ERIC P. ORFF
Certified Wildlife Biologist
Wildlife Author - Wildlife Lecturer -
Non-Lethal Control of Bats since 1983
New Hampshire Nature Notes by Eric Orff
Wednesday 12/22/2004 Oh deer!
Yesterday as my thermometer showed 3 degrees, I headed out around 7:30 to get the moose trailer at HQ and to go to Manchester to catch the "tame"deer. The one with a huge picture on the cover of Friday's Union Leader. Precious is her name. No pressure not to screw up there! Like kill her in front of the news crew waiting for me. But no deer came to feed out of this lady's hand at the appointed time. No time in fact. So much for the easy day.
So I ditched the trailer, and the news crew and went looking. I caught up with Precious in a massive housing development just as she was headed to cross I-93. No pressure there! But I roped her and fought her to the ground alone and got her in my deer bag! Back to the trailer where I gave her a light sedative at 12:12 as I was worried in her thrashing that she would injure or kill herself. No deer is ever "tame". Thirty years of experience has shown me that.
I got her to the wild animal hospital about 2:45 PM after stopping every 20 minutes to a half hour to check her. Even in her "sedated condition I found her out of the deer bag at one point. But I didn't want her too far under to increase her chance of survival in a day that started with a temperature of zero. Every deer acts differently to the prescribed drug doses. Despite the fact that I tried to keep her propped up in the correct position for transporting, and covered her to keep her warm, a cold day such as this could zap her energy and kill her in a sedated state. I gave her a light dose so she should bounce back quickly. At 2:58 I administered the reversal agent that normally will have a deer one it's feet within minutes.
Not this deer, not in an hour, not two hours. I had her carefully propped up on a thick carpet of hay in a wooden enclosure 20 feet by 20 feet. I added a second much thicker quilt at 5:00 PM. Her ears perked up and her breathing was stable and strong, but she would not, and could not stand. More time ebbed by, but my concerns didn't. I was very worried at points about her recovery, despite doing everything I could and those at the wild animal hospital could. Just handling a wild deer under the best of conditions results in at least a 5% mortality. Yesterday was not the best of conditions.
This pen will be this deer's home for at least ten days. Since she had human contact, that was photographed last week which was in the paper, she has now become a "rabies risk". Deer do get rabies. An "exposure" means confinement for ten days or killing her to check her brain for the rabies virus. I stood by to monitor, not only her recovery, but if she does not adjust immediately to the pen, and begins to injure herself by running into the walls, I was instructed to kill her and take her head for testing. It is required procedure with human exposure, probably of several students at the Tech School. A very good reason NOT to tame a deer. It is loving them to death!
If she acclimates to the pen, which can be opened for a much larger enclosure, she will become a surrogate mother of several dozen orphaned fawns next summer. Thus giving them a chance at seeing a real deer as a mom and increasing their likely hood of integrating with deer in the wild and not a human "mom".
I continued to wait and check on her every half hour as the evening crept into another frigid night. Stars filled the sky as I quietly went from the warm of the animal critical care building out to her pen. Finally at 9:48 she stood and walked. I arrived home at midnight thinking how fortunate I had been. As of 8:00 AM this morning, she is doing fine, and seems to be OK in the pen. I think the Christmas spirit was with her yesterday. Allowing me to capture her, probably minutes before she was killed on I-93, and bringing her back from deaths door under terrible weather conditions. If she adapts to the pen, she will help make wild fawns, wild, and could serve no better purpose.
2004-12-20 River Otter on the Suncook River
2004-12-28 The big chill was back.