WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS -- A big deal is made of human encounters with predators such as bears and wolves.
But a wide range of wildlfie -- including prey species such as deer -- can become dangerous when conditioned to lose their fear of humans.
I blogged this story earlier in the month, but I thought you might want to see the photo of the father-daughter team that came to the rescue of Sue Panter of Whitney, Idaho as she was being attacked by a young mule deer buck.
Panter was minding her own business on a walk near her home on Sept. 30 when the buck began ramming into her and goring her legs with its antlers.
Click below to read the story by Jennifer Jackson of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
Michael Vaughan and his 17-year-old daughter, Alexis Vaughan, both of Fairview, Idaho, became heroes when they rescued Sue Panter from an attack by a mule deer. But Vaughan did not escape without his own injuries. Panter and Vaughan were treated for injuries sustained during the confrontation, including puncture wounds, scratches and bruises and were released the same day.
Panter started her morning with what was supposed to be a pleasant walk along a road near her home, enjoying the fall air and taking in the sights and sounds of Whitney's rural surroundings. With a cornfield-covered landscape all around her, it was no surprise to Panter when two mule deer crossed her path about 100 yards ahead. What surprised her was the young buck that wandered out of the corn field across the road from her.
At first, the buck simply walked parallel to Panter's course. But Panter became more and more concerned as the buck quickly closed the distance between them, actually crossing the road and approaching her. She yelled out to discourage the deer, but even a small handful of gravel thrown at the buck did not turn him away.
A fearful Panter bent over to pick up a log she spotted off the side of the road, but before she could even attempt to grasp the object, the deer knocked her to the ground. At that point, the buck began raking her body with his antlers, scratching and digging at her legs and back. Panter played dead, hoping that her lack of response would discourage the deer. But as the deer gored her in the legs three times and pummeled her upper body, Panter knew she had to fight back. She grabbed the deer's antlers and fought to keep the animal's head away from her face and neck.
Sue Panter's spouse, Scott, said his wife was trying to keep herself in plain sight on the roadway during the struggle.
"She felt that if she got pushed off the road and into the cornfield, no one would see her struggling or even know she was there," said Scott Panter, who was at work when the deer attack occurred.
Luckily for Panter, Vaughan and his daughter drove their Ford Excursion down that same road that morning. Alexis Vaughan first spotted Panter and the deer struggling. Michael Vaughan said his daughter yelled that someone was being attacked by a deer. As soon as he stopped his vehicle, Alexis Vaughan jumped out, ran to the struggling Panter and began punching the deer with her fists. Michael Vaughan quickly joined in his daughter's efforts and was able to grab the deer by the antlers.
Freed from the attacking deer, Panter was able to get herself to Vaughan's vehicle. But the deer was now fully engaged with Michael Vaughan. As he wrestled the deer by the antlers, he yelled to his daughter to grab something from the vehicle to hit the deer. Alexis Vaughan grabbed a hammer and began hitting the deer.
Michael Vaughan said he kept telling his daughter to "keep hitting, keep doing what you are doing." Finally, the buck stood back and then ran off, but the deer had left him with three puncture wounds on his legs.
Alexis Vaughan drove her father and Panter to the emergency room in Preston where both were treated for their injuries and released the same day.
Scott Panter said his wife was shaken and in shock that this happened.
"She has a difficult time even talking about it," Scott Panter said. "We are all in shock and cannot believe this happened."
When asked about Michael Vaughan and his daughter, Panter got quiet and then said: "I am so grateful for the Vaughans. I don't know how I am going to repay them."
Michael Vaughan said that he was glad that he and his daughter were at the right place at the right time.
"If we hadn't come up on Panter when we did, it could have been so much worse," he said. "I don't think she would have made it."
Blake Phillips, regional conservation officer for Fish and Game's Southeast Region, said it is not known for certain why this mule deer attacked Panter, but behavior like this is typical of deer that have been hand-raised or "tamed" by people.
"It is incidents like this that remind us why it is against the law for people to rear wildlife as pets," Phillips said. "Animals who have become accustomed or even imprinted on people do not fare well in the wild on their own, and can become nuisances and even dangerous to the public."
Unprovoked attacks by domesticated or "pet" deer, though very rare, have been reported in Idaho.
Fish and Game urges anyone who may have information about this particular deer, including any information about its origins or its current location, to please contact Fish and Game. Korey Owens, senior conservation officer for Fish and Game in Preston, can be reached at 208-251-1923.
Surprisingly, Scott Panter and his wife hold no ill-will toward mule deer in general following this ordeal.
"We live in their territory, in their home," he says. "An incident like this is so rare. But if this is all because someone raised a deer as a pet, then let this be an example of why no one should tame wildlife."
Jennifer Jackson is the regional conservation educator for Idaho Fish and Game's southeast region.