What would you do?

Brigitte Henzmann

Dear editor:
We are a family with seven children and live out in the country on a small farm along with our dairy cow, some beef cattle, a donkey, some horses, and other smaller critters.
We share this land with a variety of wild animals, as well, such as black bear, deer, and even some wolves.
Our family has great respect for these animals, and are not afraid when we see them in the fields. We do not feed them and we do not bother them or try to get close. We do, however, fear strange, unnatural behaviours from these animals and feel we have a right to report these behaviours to the MNR and to be taken seriously when we explain to them what happened so they can contain the problem.
My husband and I were doing chores two Sundays ago [Feb. 19]. I had my youngest son with me while I fed the calves when our dog began barking loudly. We noticed a large animal running towards the barn and thought it might be our horse. But when we turned to look again, it was a deer, which ran right into our trailer.
Things went crazy from there. The deer turned around and tried to jump at my husband, but he was able to hit him with the pitchfork. I grabbed my son and ran back with the calves and the deer ran into the barn, upsetting our cows, then ran back outside.
We ran into the barn and shut the doors, but the deer kept smashing into it. Now we were scared.
We could hear him outside hitting the walls and going into other buildings, and when we opened the door to try and run to the house for help, the deer would hit the doors again. It had us trapped.
We could see that the deer’s mouth was open. He was foaming badly, his tongue was hanging out, and was making loud raspy noises.
We tried to get out a different door, but the deer was staying close and smashed at that door, too. He went into the duck house, at which point the dog got back outside and began distracting the animal again. I took this opportunity to grab my son and get to the house and call for help while my husband stayed out with our dog and livestock.
The deer continued to behave unnaturally and erratically, hitting all the sheds and banging into the walls. Finally after a half-hour, he laid down exhausted and never moved again.
The police arrived an hour later. They told us they were not worried about any diseases this animal may have had, or what may have caused it to behave this way, but that it was probably best to keep a close eye on our dog.
Monday was a holiday (Family Day), so I couldn’t speak to the MNR until the Tuesday morning. When I finally got through, I was told it was unlikely there was anything wrong with the animal, that these things happen, and to throw it into the bush on Crown land as they would not be doing any tests.
I told him we were not touching this deer, and reminded him that we are supposed to report unusual behaviours to the MNR and that this deer was displaying signs of what possibly could be rabies. I am very worried for our family and friends, our dog, and our farm animals.
He said we don’t have the facilities or the recourses to test the animal, and there have not been any reportable diseases in years. He then repeated that I should just throw it into some Crown land.
I don’t think this was legal, and wonder what would happen if some one was to actually witness me doing this and report me.
I then called the health unit, which directed me to the food inspector since deer are food animals. After recounting the events again, I was told they would speak to the Thunder Bay vet. He called me back and said the MNR would pick the deer up and there would be some testing done, and to make sure we did not touch the deer.
A few hours later, the MNR called to make arrangements to pick up the animal the following day, but still wondered if we would just move it ourselves as they were not testing the animal.
Confused, I called the food inspectors back and they said unfortunately the final decision for this was not theirs to make.
Resigned to the fact that there was no interest in checking for rabies, CWD, or any other brain or body disease, I was happy they at least were going to remove the animal from our property after almost four days.
Meanwhile, at some point, other animals had come during the night and eaten some of the deer’s flesh. It could have been wolves, or maybe the neighbour’s dog (we don’t know).
The MNR picked up the deer on the Wednesday evening and were not concerned about the meat that had been removed. The officer told us there had been hundreds of tests done on animals over the years and none were found to have rabies; yet every year we are forced to spend money on a rabies shot for our pets.
I wonder if they have ever tested a crazy deer like this one? He said the likely scenario for this whole event was that it had been chased by wolves or someone was leaving feed out for them, which can cause strange behaviours.
We probably will never know what caused this animal to behave the way it did, but we need to pay attention to any strange or erratic behaviours we may notice with the wildlife around us, as well as our own family pets.
Arnold and
Brigitte Henzmann
Emo, Ont.