Locals in Coldstream, BC, are mourning the death of John Deer, a young mule deer who had been “hand raised” by the community and was known to walk right up to humans to get a scratch behind the ears. The buck was euthanized last week by the Conservation Officer Service. Stuart Bertrand, a public affairs officer with the Ministry of Environment, claims that the deer had become habituated to humans, making it a high risk for unpredictable behaviour.
The decision was based on a consultation with the provincial wildlife veterinarian, Dr. Helen Schwantje.
“I immediately became concerned,” she says, after seeing a video of the deer rubbing its head against a boy on the beach. “That’s not a normal behaviour for a deer.”
Dr. Schwantje and other officials were concerned that the animal’s familiarity with humans might put the public at risk.
“If it had carried on, and a child had gotten an antler through the back or through the neck, what would the backlash be there?” she asks. According to Dr. Schwantje, the deer was trying to rub the velvet off its antlers the way it would on a tree or a rock. “As they approach breeding season, they become aggressive with familiar objects, and in this case, people.”
Bertrand says that the behaviour was becoming more frequent. According to him, relocating the animal was “not a viable option.” A conservation officer sedated the animal, removed it from the area, and shot it.
The reaction from the community and from readers online has been split. One side questions the hasty to decision to kill the animal rather than relocate it. “It was so tame you could have walked it into a horse trailer,” says one Coldstream local.
The other side points out that these are the ugly consequences of human interference in nature. “We need to learn to leave wild animals alone,” says one online commenter. “Shame on whoever took it upon themselves to raise this deer in the first place and created this problem.”