Wildlife officers untangle deer near Eagle
December 26, 2008
EAGLE, Colo. ” Two deer literally locked horns near Eagle, Colo. last week during a seasonal display brought on by male hormones.
The rescue of the tangled animals involved a saw and some cowboy skills from the quartet of wildlife officers who responded to the battle.
Brush Creek resident Cindy Cohagen discovered the entangled deer while she was taking her dog on a snowy morning walk on Dec. 18. When she reached the corner of Eaton and Mosher lanes, she heard a wild crashing noise.
Following her dog’s cue, she looked toward an adjacent pasture and spied two bucks fighting each other. Some does and fawns watched from a distant hillside.
While Cohagen watched, the fighting animals smashed their antlered heads together two more times. The third time they hit, the horns didn’t release.
Cohagen watched for another five minutes, initially assuming that the animals were just pushing one another.
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“It was absolutely one of the most incredible spectacles of my entire life,” Cohagen said.
When the deer started moving along the fence line in tandem, she realized they weren’t going to untangle themselves.
Cohagen hurried back to her house and called the Colorado Division of Wildlife. By the time district wildlife managers Craig Wescoatt, Brian Wodrich, Dan Cacho and Bill Andree responded, the snowstorm had escalated to blizzard-like conditions.
The officers could see they were dealing with two not-quite mature, big bucks. One had four points on each sides of its antlers; the other was a non-typical, five-point buck.
The wildlife officers’ initial strategy was to tranquilize the animals and then deal with the untangling of the antlers, but the weather proved a challenge. The blowing snow made it difficult for the officers to get an accurate shot with the tranquilizer gun, and the tranquilizer drug was freezing up.
Plan B involved the cowboy skills. Andree tossed a lasso, and caught one side of the locked antlers from both deer. The officers then physically tackled the animals, intending to hold them down long enough to saw off the antlers.
One animal ended up on its back in the snow. One man held that buck down. The other, which had its feet under it, required two men to restrain it. Andree was able to saw through one antler on the left side of the larger animal. Once that antler was freed, the animals were able to separate from one another, and move off into the hills ” one animal with a horn stub where an antler had previously sprouted.
Andree said, while he has never before had to physically untangle deer, the locked antler scenarios happen often.
“Usually they get apart before officers can get there. Once in a while, they die,” he said.
The antler bashing is part of the deer’s mating behavior.
“They’re doing it (smashing antlers) because they’re guys,” Andree explained.
The deer are at the end of their breeding season, and the animals’ antlers will start dropping off in about a month.
Meanwhile, Cohagen enjoyed the unusual sight.
“It was an incredibly short window of opportunity. Had I been one minute earlier, or one minute later, I would have missed it,” she said.
She had high praise for the crew that ventured forth through harsh weather to assist the tangled animals.
“I’m sure the deer’s lives were saved. The … guys were just wonderful,” Cohagen said.