Friday, May 19, 2006

TENNESSEE NEWS: Deer Attacks Kindergarten

Kindergarten students at Robert E. Lillard Design Center School in Bordeaux had an unexpected visitor to their language arts class Thursday morning when a deer crashed through the room's first-floor window and landed at the foot of the teacher's desk.
At first, teacher Linda Fletcher was shocked and bewildered, but then her instincts kicked in. As the injured deer crawled away from her desk and behind the coat closet, she acted.

"All I could think about was getting away from the hooves and getting the children out," Fletcher said.
Two students suffered minor cuts from flying glass and one complained of chest pain — but the rest of the class was OK after the incident, school officials said.

Five-year-old Marcel Fogg was sitting at a table far away from the deer, which he and his other classmates have named Rudolph, but said he was frightened when the animal broke through the glass and flew over the heads of two classmates sitting beneath the window. "I thought Rudolph was gonna bite me," Marcel said.

Metro Animal Control Services and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency were called to the scene, where they tranquilized the deer and then euthanized it, said Steve Patrick, a TWRA regional manager. The deer had broken and severed its hind legs and probably would have gone into shock if it were not put down, he said. Animal Control officials will run tests to make sure that the animal was not diseased or that there could have been any other cause for its behavior, he said.

But such incidents are not altogether uncommon in Middle Tennessee, Patrick said. It happens once or twice a year — often because of the large deer population that lives in wooded cover so close to urban areas, he said. Sometimes deer get confused and wander into populated areas. Male deer are especially territorial and have been known to charge their own reflections.

ILLINOIS NEWS: When Deer Attack

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Tammy Emery used to think of deer as sweet and adorable, like Bambi. An encounter with a hard-charging doe changed that. The 31-year-old secretary was among at least seven people threatened or injured by female deer last year on Southern Illinois University's campus - attacks that have prompted the school to wage a safety campaign during this spring's fawning season.

The attacks in the woods at the 20,000-student university have been attributed to a combination of protective motherly instinct, squeezed habitat and, in some cases, a little too much human curiosity.

The message now: Keep your eyes peeled for deer, don't approach them, and if a wild-eyed deer starts bounding your way, run.

"Before last year, no one really had heard of this sort of thing," says Clay Nielsen, a wildlife ecologist at the university.

Nielsen believes different deer were responsible for the three attacks that sent Emery and at least three others to the hospital, mostly with minor injuries.

"It wasn't like it was one crazy animal," Nielsen says. But some of the attacks may have been avoided, he thinks, if the victims hadn't committed an absolute no-no: moving in on a fawn to pet it.

Now, with fawning season soon to peak - last year's attacks happened June 7-15 - Nielsen and other campus officials are using signs, radio spots, e-mails and fliers about the deer in Thompson Woods. Later this month, Nielsen will lead a seminar titled "Avoiding Deer-Human Encounters of the Third Kind on Campus."
The effort also includes a two-year study by Nielsen and other researchers to count the deer, pinpoint how the animals affect the campus' ecosystem and gauge what locals think of them. Nielsen says the study will offer no recommendations on what to do about the deer, leaving that difficult issue for administrators.

All of this comes too late for Emery, a secretary in the political science department who still winces when she recounts what happened to her on the June afternoon she took a shortcut through Thompson Woods.

Emery heard a rustling and saw "this deer was headed right toward me, full charge." Emery never saw any fawn, only the adult deer with eyes wide.

"I could tell it was angry, but I wasn't sure what about," she says. "I know by the time I was in the area she was really mad and going to take it all out on me. I couldn't have run if I tried."

In an instant, the deer knocked the woman to the ground and delivered a flurry of kicks. Emery, screaming, curled defensively into a ball as the snorting animal rained blows on her, slicing open one of her ears and leaving her with huge bruises and a hoofprint on her hand.

"I thought, `This is crazy, this can't be real. I'm being attacked by a deer,'" she recalls.

The deer was scared off by passers-by. Emery has not been back in that stretch of the woods since.

While taking a shortcut through the woods this week, Stephanie Eastwood, a biochemistry major, wondered what all the fuss was about, saying deer were the least of her worries.

"Deer are docile creatures - they don't just attack," said Eastwood, 26. "I find it amusing to see the animals in the park, but all I've seen here is squirrels and snakes, and snakes bother me more."

Nielsen suspects various factors conspired in last year's attacks, including an increase in the deer population and the clearing of trees and windbreaks around the campus' edge. That shrinking habitat has forced the animals into Thompson Woods, which is 20 or so acres with hundreds of yards of paved trails.

"It's the result of having a beautiful campus that we have to deal with wildlife," Nielsen says.

Emery says she thinks differently deer these days: "When they're mad, they're vicious. They're not the pretty creatures they were to me before."

Thursday, May 18, 2006

ILLINOIS NEWS: Deer Culling in Chicago Extends Beyond O'Hare

The Chicago Park District plans to seek a permit to kill deer at a North Side nature preserve, and sharpshooters likely will begin thinning the herd this fall. Deer have overrun the North Park Village Nature Center at Pulaski and Peterson. Staff members said Wednesday there is no other choice than "managing" the white-tails' population.

Only one deer was seen there 10 years ago, but at last count, 20 of them now live at the 46-acre preserve. About half are pregnant does, due to give birth in the next few weeks. Deer usually bear twin fawns, "so the number could be doubling this year" -- to 40 -- said center director Claudia Regojo.

State wildlife experts say the acreage is large enough to support only one or two deer. But Regojo said that doesn't mean large numbers must be killed. Staffers will monitor plant loss -- the major reason the deer must go -- to determine how much to reduce the herd. She told center volunteers in a letter last week that "biological diversity" is the goal, "with each organism [plant or animal] carrying equal importance."

Rutting male deer "girdle" and kill trees by rubbing off bark with their antlers. Deer eat native wildflowers and make it hard to get new varieties started.

Public safety is another factor, Regojo said, noting that 12,000 schoolchildren visit in spring and fall. In fall -- mating season -- male deer can be aggressive. In spring, females nursing their young may endanger people who get too close.

A buck charged a man jogging along Bryn Mawr near the nature center last fall. The man wasn't injured. But last spring, two people were hospitalized out of seven who were attacked or threatened by does near the campus of Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.

The state issued 29 deer-culling permits in northern Illinois last winter and turned down none, said Marty Jones, urban deer project manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

There is no practical alternative to shooting the animals, Jones said. Relocation risks spreading the chronic wasting disease that deer carry. Newcomer animals must compete with established deer. And the mortality rate is high. "You can't catch enough to achieve your goals," he said.

As for contraception, "It's in its infancy, very experimental," he said.

But Steve Hindi of Geneva, president of SHARK (Showing Animals Respect and Kindness), said, "People who say contraception doesn't work [on deer] tend to be people who just want to shoot them."

For years, sharpshooters have been clearing O'Hare Airport of excess deer, which stray onto runways and taxiways. But using that method at the nature center would be the only other culling of deer ever done within the city limits, said Joel Greenberg, author of A Natural History of the Chicago Region.

Monday, May 15, 2006

NEW ZEALAND NEWS: Illegal Deer Introduction Threatens Park

The Department of Conservation says the re-introduction of deer into Egmont National Park is deliberate and could pollute local water supplies and damage forest regeneration.

Deer have been banned from the park since the turn of the century.

DOC's Stratford Area Manager Robert Bennett says it is believed about three deer were dropped into the park deliberately, perhaps by recreational hunters.

But he says the deer is a pest, like the possum, and anyone who is found to have released it could face prosecution.

Mr Bennett says a team of hunters looking for the deer will shoot them before they have a chance to become more widespread.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

NEW YORK NEWS: Lyme Disease Fears Grow on Staten Island

Staten Island has traditionally had a low incidence of Lyme disease. But some worry that more Islanders will get the disease in their back yards due to the borough's growing deer population.

Lyme disease, which is transmitted by the bite of a deer tick, can cause arthritis, fatigue, memory problems, facial paralysis or, at its worst, abnormal heart rhythm and brain infection. It is treatable with antibiotics if caught early.

"Historically, we've had very few cases that have emanated from Staten Island," said Dr. Ernest B. Visconti, chief of infectious diseases at Lutheran Medical Center in Brooklyn. "It may be coming here in the future."

To raise awareness of the disease, the borough president's office will host a forum at the College of Staten Island on June 20 -- just in time for July 4, one of the busiest days for doctors specializing in Lyme disease.

Ever since deer showed up in the borough about 15 years ago, doctors and environmentalists have been on the lookout for a growth in the incidence of Lyme disease. They have not yet established that the disease is in the borough.

Meanwhile, the deer here have multiplied over the years.