In Saanich on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, female deer have been accosting innocent passersby and their small pooches—leading to police warning residents, especially those out walking their dogs, to be wary.
According to local media, one man reported to Saanich police over the weekend that a doe was following him and his small dog in hot pursuit, causing the man to "[take] refuge on a porch." Another said that a deer had entered his yard three times and attempted to attack his dog. The man tried to chase the animal away with "a baseball bat."
The Saanich police did not respond to Motherboard's request for comment. But similar alerts about deer attacks have been issued before, advising people to keep their distance.
Experts attribute deer aggression to fawning season. It's a very magical, wonderful time—kind of like the first two seconds of Bambi—but if humans get too close, there's a risk of the mother rejecting the fawn. Deer and other wildlife have been encroaching on urban spaces as humans crowd them out of their habitats. Spotting a deer in your backyard might sound like a lot of fun, but deer overpopulation is a problem, and can disturb ecosystems.
To make matters worse, areas with lots of deer can also have high rates of Lyme disease.
Getting back to the situation in Saanich, I asked Frank Mallory, a biology professor at Laurentian University, why on Earth a deer would chase down a dog. "Small dogs are not a threat to deer whereas large dogs, like wolves, would be," he wrote in an email. "So deer would flee or avoid large dogs, but try to scare off small dogs."
Deer that show signs of aggression to humans are at risk of being euthanized, wrote Mallory.
Saanich is not alone in dealing with the problem. Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta issued a warning in early May about aggressive deer. Bloomington, Indiana, too: a page dedicated to the issue points out that white-tailed deer are not naturally aggressive animals and will normally flee instead of fight in a situation, except when it comes to their fawns.
So, how can unwitting citizens protect themselves? Stay away from the dang deer.
"Be aware of your surroundings and if you see a deer keep your distance," wrote Duane Diefenbach, an adjunct professor of wildlife ecology at Pennsylvania State University, in an email. "Also, if a doe thinks her fawn is in danger she may actually look in the direction of the fawn or move closer to the fawn's location. Use that as a cue to head in a different direction."
No one was reportedly hurt in the recent incidents in Saanich. But for the poor souls who become the target of a momma deer's aggression, Diefenbach's advice is to retreat and try to put an object, like a tree or a car, in between yourself and the deer.
"The danger with female deer are their hooves, that can deal a sharp blow," he wrote.
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