Several reports of aggressive deer in the South Okanagan have conservation officers reminding residents that they aren’t all tame like Bambi.
“This year more than other years we are seeing the deer being more assertive,” said conservation officer Bob Hamilton. “It is a sensitive time of year because the deer are fawning, and unfortunately the does have learned the best defence is a good offence. They have experience with dogs and coyotes and have learned to stand their ground.”
Hamilton, who noted fawning season takes place in the month of June, said even well-behaved dogs are targeted because the deer have learned that coyotes are their enemies and so they go after dogs.
“The deer are confusing dogs with a threat, and because they have learned they can stomp that threat they will go after it,” said Hamilton.
On Tuesday a woman in the Interior town of Kimberley was attacked by a deer after she shielded her two pugs. Hamilton said the deer kicked and stomped at the woman. Police had to be called in to shoot one of the deer and conservation officers located a second deer and fawn that was there and shot them.
“Their hooves are sharp and they can do a number. They normally stand up and flail with their hooves so they can cut you or bruise you pretty good,” said Hamilton. “Deer are never considered to be predators and this is a new role. What they are doing is defending their young and trying to get rid of the perceived threat.”
Janelle Wood, who lives in the Wiltse area of Penticton, said her dog was attacked last Sunday. An Okanagan Falls woman, Louanne Sylvestre, who owns the dog walking business Woofin Good Times, said she also experienced aggressive deer. A deer had its fawn in the neighbour’s backyard and has been guarding Sylvestre’s yard.
“My boyfriend, myself and our dog have been charged at several times. Our dog does not bark either so she just continues to charge. Anyone walking down the road with a dog the deer will chase,” Sylvestre said. “I am worried every time I walk out of my house.”
The conservation officer recommends that people not allow their children to walk their dog alone while the deer are fawning. Hamilton said carrying a walking stick so you can defend yourself if a deer attacks also might help.
“With any wild animal attacking, unless it’s a huge animal like a grizzly bear, you are best to stand your ground and dominate the animal. Turning your back and fleeing is going to make it easy for them. Back away slowly, talk deeply and firmly. It is probably best not to throw anything at them because they may see that as more of a threat. If they do attack and you have a walking stick, although it is unfortunate, you can give them a wallop. They are used to being prey and used to flight so their natural instincts are to flee,” said Hamilton.
The Ministry of Environment recommends giving the wild animals lots of room when you are nearby. If you find a fawn that is orphaned or injured, contact the Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-7277 or a wildlife rehabilitation centre as soon as possible. Do not touch or move the fawn. It is important to handle deer orphans carefully and minimize human contact in order to give them the best chance of surviving and returning to the wild.