Be warned: Deer are becoming more aggressive.
The warning is aimed particularly at people walking their dogs, as it seems doe deer with fawns tend to view dogs as threatening their young, and humans who get in the way can suffer a severe beating.
That’s what happened to a Kimberly woman this week, right on her own driveway, as she took her two pugs for a walk, on the leash.
Conservation officer Sgt. Joe Caravetta, of the East Kootenay region, says the woman lives in a residential area of the community and there’s nothing she should have done differently to prevent her injuries.
Two mule deer does approached her and she said she felt threatened for her dogs, so she huddled over them to protect them.
Instead, the deer began using their sharp hooves to kick and beat her.
A neighbour took a snow shovel to the deer, but failed to get them to leave, so police were called and when one of the does continued to be very aggressive upon their arrival, she was shot.
“Perhaps they perceived the dogs to be threats to their fawns,” speculated Caravetta. “It was just an unfortunate situation all around.
“We were taught to watch out for bears, but we tend to think of Bambi when we see deer. We don’t expect that kind of behaviour from timid deer.”
In his 23 years as a CO, Caravetta says he has never seen such a violent incident of deer behaviour, but he has seen an escalation in aggression from deer in recent years.
That’s echoed by the environment ministry’s provincial wildlife conflict prevention coordinator, Mike Badry, who says there are certainly more urban deer conflicts, perhaps as a response by the deer to dogs which chase them.
“Dogs are a real trigger for aggressive behaviour, particularly from defensive does with fawns. They’ve learned they can dominate dogs in urban situations, and if people get in the way, they can be hurt,” he commented.
He warned people with dogs that they should be aware they can be viewed as threatening to a doe, so they should take a wide berth around them and make themselves appear to be non-threatening.
First of all, he said, it’s important to try and prevent any incidents, but just in case, he said it might be wise to carry a big stick with which to defend yourself.
Kelowna conservation officer Terry Myroniuk said we haven’t had as many or as serious incidents here, but there have been some in the Lakeshore Road area in the Mission, where a dog was attacked by an aggressive deer.
He feels dogs may be the targets because they resemble coyotes, a natural predator of deer.
Coyote populations are high, so does may find they have to defend their fawns more often, he speculated, or they may have been chased by dogs in the past.
“We’re not used to viewing deer as anything but timid. However, when they have babies to defend, it’s a different story,” said Myroniuk.
Caravetta noted we’ve moved into their territory and built our homes there, and deer have found that to be a refuge where their natural predators are not as numerous, and there’s lots of feed.
Their fawns are born there, in residential yards, and grow up believing that is their natural habitat.