Fawning season to blame for deer attacks

By Gus Bode

University officials responded to the campus deer attacks with a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

Todd Sigler, director of the Department of Public Safety, discussed the six previous incidents and informed the public of a seventh.

Sigler said the seventh incident occurred around 3:20 p.m. Monday on the south side of Doyle Hall.

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A fawn approached a male staff member and the mother doe, standing nearby, knocked him to the ground twice before walking away, Sigler said.

The staff member received scratches on the ankle, elbow and knee, and marks on his back. Medical attention was not required.

“The deer never really ran in any of the events, they just decided on their own to disengage themselves from these people,” Sigler said.

Sigler said this is an uncommon problem to deal with, but the Department of Public Safety is doing what they can by posting “Caution:Deer” signs where deer have been sighted. The department has also notified operations involved with summer campus visitors.

“We’ve made sure they are taking steps to inform the various camps of this phenomenon, especially early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the attacks seem to be taking place,” Sigler said.

What the department will not do, Sigler said, is relocate the deer or use lethal removal.

“We never really considered it from day one,” he said.

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Wildlife ecologist Clay Nielsen, of the Cooperative Wildlife Research Lab on campus, said they are doing everything they can to preserve nature while also protecting the public.

“We want to balance public safety with concerns of humaneness to the animals as well as public reaction,” he said.

Nielsen said the causes of the attacks may be an increasing deer population, the growing campus and the fawning season, which is the time of year when deer are most likely to give birth, Nielsen said. The season, in which 70 percent of all fawns are born, begins June 4 and ends June 10, he said.

“We are just outside the peak of the fawning season,” he said.

Nielsen said the mother does are most aggressive at this time because of the strong biological need to protect their young.

Generally, Nielsen said, the doe will stomp, snort or rush at whatever she sees as a threat, but the next phase is striking out with the front hooves.

“They view a human coming close to their fawn just as they would a predator, just like a coyote or a bobcat, or something like that,” he said.

Nielsen said the bottom line is that the deer are wild animals and should never be approached, though students and staff members alike can take comfort in knowing that the fawning season is coming to an end. Also, as the fawns grow older and are able to fend for themselves, the mother doe is not as likely to charge.

Haley Murray can be reached at [email protected]

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