Kelvin Peña recently spotted a deer in his leafy backyard in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. Tweeting from his account @COLDGAMEKELV, he posted a video of himself and the deer, which he named Money and called his "best friend."
"I just want to show everybody how I'm spending my day," he says in the video, clearly delighted to be standing so close to a big, antlered, and very docile animal. "I'm out here eating crackers with my pet deer." He scatters some Club crackers on the ground for Money."We be lit out here, man," Peña says. "We love the woods."
About a month ago, Peña moved from Texas to Pennsylvania (state animal? the white-tailed deer, natch). When I phoned him up on Monday to ask him about those deer, he told me he'd never encountered one up-close before.
"I was like, I'm going to try to feed him," Peña said. "Because usually deer just run away."
More deer have showed up, including one his cousin calls Canela.Peña later played basketball with the deer.
Peña, who'll be starting at East Stroudsburg University in the fall, has been feeding the creatures chips and powdered donuts. In the wild, they eat greens, acorns, twigs, and fungi, which is why Peña has taken a little bit of heat for giving them junk food.
People haven't been overly critical, he said. "There's not that much negativity thrown at me," he told me. "Once in awhile, people will say, feed him some healthy things. But I already know."
White-tailed deer populations are booming for a few different reasons, including hunting practices and regulations, a lack of natural predators, and plenty of habitat and food. As a result of all this, their numbers have been growing and growing.
Once overhunted almost to the point of extinction in certain parts of the US, white-tailed deer are more like suburban pests today. They munch their way through people's gardens, have been linked to the spread of Lyme disease, and cause car crashes up and down North America.
In 2001, Pennsylvania had about 1.5 million deer (30 per square mile). That's more than three times the number that lived in the area before European settlers arrived.
Some cities are considering introducing "urban" deer hunts as a result.
Conservationists are grappling with the consequences of deer overpopulation, which is throwing ecosystems out of whack. But catching sight of one in your backyard is still pretty amazing, even if it isn't an ideal habitat for this animal.
Peña said he doesn't think his neighbours see them as pests, at least not that he's heard.
"They're not scared of me," Peña said. "That's why we have a connection."
Still, probably best not to feed them powdered donuts.