Keep Them Wild: Part II

By Tom Batter, WIL Scientific Aid

A few weeks ago we published a blog post about the rescuing of a doe wrapped in a tomato cage and how it was a prime example of human-wildlife conflict.  Sure enough, it wasn’t long before the DFG North Central Region personnel and WIL were called upon again to help another deer residing close to human residences.

A mule deer buck, complete with hammock.

A concerned citizen located near El Dorado Hills reached out to Fish and Game through email.  He told us of a local buck that had a hammock enveloping his left antler, causing the buck to use up energy in a hopeless attempt at removing it on his own.  A team was sent out to assess the situation and determine the most appropriate action to take.

North Central Region staff Ed Andrews, Shelly Blair, and WIL Scientific Aid David Mollel monitor the deer as they prepare to administer the reversal agent.

Given the circumstances –a suburban environment and an unapproachable deer – WIL veterinarian Dr. Ben Gonzales and North Central Region Senior Environmental Scientist Jason Holley felt it was best to chemically immobilize the buck using a dart projector, much like the last rescue involving the doe and the wire.  The buck was successfully darted, and chemical immobilization protocol was followed.  It was decided that the best solution for this particular buck was to remove the antlers completely, relieving him of the attached hammock in the process.  The benefits of removing the antlers include the quick removal process, limitation of stress on the animal, and prevention of re-entanglement.

The buck walking off post-capture, feeling a little lighter.

Ultimately this may cost the buck a chance at breeding this mating season.  Antlers are used to compete directly with other males through both fighting and display.  Does are more likely to choose mates that are dominant and exhibit quality antlers.  However, antlers are shed once the breeding season is complete – anywhere from mid-January to mid-April.  The playing field will be level again, and this buck will be able to grow a new quality spread, free of the hammock ornament.  Plus, this deer is unlikely to become the target of any hunters looking for a new trophy this season.

Thanks to vigilance from the general public, the Department of Fish and Game is able to respond to wildlife issues that may otherwise go unnoticed.  Wildlife is abundant in California, and human-wildlife conflicts will continue to occur.  At times it can be a bit unclear who you should contact in case you come across nuisance, dangerous, or injured wildlife.  Local cases are typically handled by regional offices. Contact information can be found here.  DFG also provides plenty of information on living with wildlife here.

Special thanks to  North Central Region staff Jason Holley, Shelly Blair, Ed Andrews, and WIL staff Dr. Ben Gonzales and David Mollel for their hard work and dedication!

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