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SPCA: We'll wait for the antlers to fall off

By KELLY NIX

Published: October 10, 2008

A YOUNG buck who stands out like a sore thumb because he has a 3-foot wooden stake caught in his antlers appears to be healthy, though wildlife officials have different opinions on what to do with the animal.

Amazingly, the deer has been able to drink and eat and get around despite the extra appendage, which the animal acquired in July after getting caught up in construction fencing in Pacific Grove’s Asilomar neighborhood.

“We are fielding 10 calls a day about the deer with the board in his horns,” said Elizabeth Conti-Yeo, P.G.’s animal control officer.

The buck seems to be healthy and not in distress, according to SPCA for Monterey County Wildlife Center acting supervisor Dawn Robles.

“He has complete mobility of his neck and head, and he can lower down and drink water and eat,” Robles said. “He definitely can get around fine.”

In a Keystone Cops-like escapade three months ago, the buck was scratching or sharpening his antlers outside a home on Sunset Drive when they got caught in construction materials, Conti-Yeo said.

“I got a call about a buck who was tangled,” she said.

When Conti-Yeo arrived at the house, she found the animal’s head was caught in rope used to fence off the house. The rope was attached to the stake.

As he moved and struggled to get free, “he got the rope tied around his antlers,” she said.

The deer tried to get away but was tethered to the wooden stake.

“It was a mess,” Conti-Yeo said, “It was ugly.”

Because city officials are not permitted to tranquilize deer, Conti-Yeo tried to get another agency to sedate the animal so it could be freed.

“I thought they would come and tranquilize him,” she said. “But the SPCA got there and they just cut the rope. Then he ran off and he had the rope and stake tied around his horns.”

Robles said SPCA officials decided not to shoot the deer with a tranquilizer dart because of possible dangers in that procedure.

In 2001, a bear that had climbed a tree in downtown Carmel was tranquilized in an effort to rescue it and move it from town. Instead, the bear fell to its death after losing consciousness.

But in 1998, a deer with an arrow protruding from its back was successfully sedated by wildlife officials in Pacific Grove. As the deer became sleepy, it was tackled and the arrow removed.

“The thing with tranquilizers, depending on the animal and how healthy it is and how stressed out it is,” Robles said, “is sometimes they can die under these meds. For the safety of the buck, it’s safer to wait it out since he is doing so well.”

Unless the deer can’t eat or is in distress, Robles said the SPCA is going to wait for the deer to shed its antlers this winter.

The stake is “not so heavy that it is putting a lot of pressure on his head,” Robles said.

But Conti-Yeo said she is in favor of tranquilizing the animal and removing the stake because she is concerned it could seriously injure or kill it.

“He is so large,” she said, “if he gets that stake stuck in a fence or a tree and he pulls, he will break his neck and it will be the end of him.”

Helpless to free the animal of the stake, Conti-Yeo also called the Department of Fish and Game, in hopes that agency would tranquilize the buck and remove the wood.

“They opted to do nothing,” she said.

Conti-Yeo said she receives a barrage of calls daily from Pacific Grove and Pebble Beach residents worried about the buck’s safety. Robles said the SPCA has also gotten numerous calls.

“In a case like this,” she said, “it could be very difficult because it sounds like he is of able body and mind, and capturing one of those guys can do more harm than good.”