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Oh deer! Don't do that

A Vernon teen was shocked (in a good way) when a buck came up to him and started rubbing his head against him.
Image Credit: SOURCE/ YouTube/Maegan Higgins
August 02, 2013 - 12:26 PM

UPDATE: 12 p.m. August 2

The day after InfoTel News posted a video of a deer befriending a Vernon teen, wildlife officials share their concerns about the encounter.

VERNON -  A YouTube video of a Vernon teen and a deer is being described by wildlife officials as a great example of what not to do.

The video was captured at a Kalamalka Lake beach after a buck approached a suntanning teen and began scratching his head against the boy. The short clip has since made its rounds through social media and had nearly 38,000 views at the time this story was published. But a Vernon conservation officer says the "cute" encounter could have ended badly for the boy, and will almost certainly end badly for the deer.

"People think it's this great National Geographic moment to take pictures of," Sgt. Josh Lockwood, North Okanagan conservation operations supervisor says. "People have been seriously hurt by deer."

Recently, conservation officers have been getting reports of a deer approaching people and their coolers at Sovereign Beach on Kalamalka Lake.

"It's a learned behaviour when a deer knows to go to a cooler for food. It's been fed by people before," Lockwood says.

But if the deer comes over expecting food and doesn't get any, things can turn ugly, Lockwood says. The deer can become aggressive and dangerous.

WildSafe B.C. coordinator Marnie Cuthill says it's a good possibility the Sovereign Beach deer and the one in the video are one and the same.

"If they're not, then sadly people are feeding another deer," she says. "The problem is a human one."

Cuthill says deer are very adaptable creatures, and once fed by humans, they won't be as likely to forage for food in the wild.

"People think it's cute to feed wildlife, but their instinct is to survive," Cuthill says. "It knows, 'if I accept affection, I will get fed.'"

She says the Sovereign Beach deer would come right over as soon as someone set down a cooler.

"You could pet it and it would seem like a good photo-op," she says. "When something like this (video) is circulated around the internet, it sort of gains legitimacy. But we have to remember, wildlife is wild."

Although there do seem to be degrees of just how "wild" an animal really is, Cuthill says many urban deer were born and raised in close proximity to humans, with mothers teaching their fawns how to get food and "where the best gardens are."

"It gets to the point where they're not even wild anymore," Cuthill says. "They don't know any differently."

She says some people feed deer quite innocently, thinking they are helping them. But with an abundance of food in the Okanagan, they don't need our help, Cuthill says. In fact, this year, biologists are seeing deer giving birth not just to twins, but to triplets.

"That's practically unheard of," she says.

Communities have what Cuthill calls a "social carrying capacity" where deer are still cute and accepted, but at a certain point, they become unwanted and no longer tolerated.

"In Vernon, we're not at the point places like Invermere and Grand Forks have come to where they've had to start culling programs, but it definitely seems like the deer population here is getting bigger."

And deer can bring other problems, like cougars. Already, with mapping software, Cuthill says it's apparent that deer and cougar complaints overlap almost perfectly, with predators following deer deeper into urban areas all the time.

If faced with a deer encounter, Cuthill says scaring them away probably won't work, and recommends relocating the deer. If the deer is creating a safety concern, conservation officers will be brought in to assess the situation.

"There's no such thing as a deer relocation program. Ultimately, that doesn't leave many options," Cuthill says.

Lockwood says the options include closing the beach to the public, or more likely, destroying the deer.

"Never approach wildlife, and never, ever feed them," Cuthill says. "We get these great video shots, but is it worth it to put your family at risk and have the deer shot?"

YouTube features numerous deer attack videos.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at chelston@infotelnews.ca, call (250)309-5230 or tweet @charhelston.

Video Credit: YouTube
A hunter gets pummeled by a buck while his wife continues to shoot the video.

 

VERNON - A Vernon teen made an unusual new friend this week when a buck came up to him and starting rubbing his head against the stunned boy. His mother caught it all on camera. While the episode appears gentle, wildlife officials warn that it could have taken a turn for the worse. They recommend never touching or feeding wildlife.

Video Credit: Maegan Higgins
A Vernon teen makes friends with a buck while hanging out at Kalamalka Lake.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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