Penticton woman stalked by deer

Conservation officer says all the incidents of aggressive deer he knows of have involved a dog

It’s not too often that you get a stalker of the non-human kind, but that’s exactly what happened for one Penticton resident while walking her dog last week.

Larissa Henschell had been walking her dog, a one-year-old malamute cross, up Green Avenue towards Valleyview Road, when they ran into a doe coming down the hill.

“First my dog started barking at it, so I expected it to run away, but instead it came towards us,” said Henschell. Her dog immediately returned to her, looking for protection, and Henschell decided it was best to get out of the deer’s way.

But the deer wasn’t giving up so easily.

“I would go away from the deer and it would follow us. I would go another direction and it would follow us again. At first, I thought it was just trying to get away from us, I was just trying to give it space, to move to the other side of the road and give it an opportunity to take off.”

When Henschell’s dog took off and ran home she thought the deer would give up and she would be able to walk home in peace.

She was wrong.

The insistent deer continued to follow Henschell, until it was finally driven off by a pair of men in a car. Even then, it took them a couple of tries, honking at it and trying to chase it away, eventually herding it into a yard.

Conservation officer Bob Hamilton is surprised the deer kept following Henschell, but he is not surprised the incident began with a dog. All of the conflicts with aggressive deer that he knows of have started with dogs, he said.

“Deer are taught from a young age that their enemy is coyote, and deer who have moved into town have seen this new type of coyote called a dog,” said Hamilton. “The deer have learned through experience that if you stand up to a dog, the dog will usually flee.”

Still, transferring the aggression to a human is unusual.  In this case, Hamilton said, the deer may need people to stand up to it. He says the prudent thing to do is get a good walking stick, a staff, and get into the habit of using it while walking.

“It aids in walking and certainly is a wonderful thing to have in your hand if you are feeling vulnerable,” said Hamilton. “What you don’t want to do, is you don’t want to run. These assertive deer have to have humans taking stands against them.”

While a deer cull is not imminent, the city is still in the process of determining if one would be necessary or effective, following up on the spring deer count.

“We’re in the process of getting ready for a fall count and getting the details together so we can advise council,” said Anthony Haddad, director of development services. These are all factors council will need to be fully informed of before making the decision whether or not a deer cull would be necessary or effective, said Haddad.