Police officer euthanizes deer that attacked several people

A spike buck had to be euthanized after attacking several people in Aiken County, S.C.

Spike buck believed to have been raised by humans

An Aiken City police officer shot and killed an aggressive spike buck in Aiken County, S.C. on Jan. 19. The deer had just attacked a person when the officer arrived on scene with other officials from SCDNR and Aiken’s Dept. of Public Safety.

It wasn’t the first time the deer had attacked a human, according to an SCDNR press release. The agency had been alerted to the deer’s behavior by the S.C Dept. of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). This was at least the third incident of the same deer being overly aggressive toward a person.

On Jan. 16, the small buck attacked someone in an Aiken subdivision. It became aggressive with someone else the next day on Pony Trail in Aiken. Then on Jan. 19, someone called for a dispatch on Anderson Pond Road. The deer was once again attacking a person. This time, officers arrived in time to locate the deer.

The victim of this attack had abrasions and bruises from the deer. She described the deer as a spike buck. She also told officers the deer had a ring of bunched up fur, as though it had been wearing a collar.

After a quick search, the officers spotted the deer less than 200 yards from where the attack had occurred. As soon as the deer noticed the officers, it charged toward them. One of the officers put the deer down with one shot.

The deer had no signs of previous injury or illness. It seemed to have been very healthy and well-fed.

Biologist believes young deer was raised by humans

Charles Ruth, SCDNR deer biologist, said the deer was surely a pet that had either been released or got loose at some recent point. He said that explains the health of the deer, its comfort level with being around humans, and even its behavior.

“Since it was hand raised, it associates people with good things. And although this looked like aggressive behavior, it was almost certainly the deer simply wanting to play because that’s how it was raised. If someone puts their hands on the deer, that encourages it to play harder. I think that’s what we saw in those incidences,” Ruth said.

As a precautionary measure, DHEC is studying the deer’s carcass.

Keeping a deer is illegal, and dangerous

It is illegal to keep deer in captivity in both North and South Carolina. Every year, the NCWRC and the SCDNR issue press releases reminding citizens of this. They also stress that when people find “abandoned’ fawns, they are almost never actually abandoned.

“Many people who come upon a solitary spotted fawn in the woods or along a roadway mistakenly assume the animal has been deserted by its mother and want to take the apparently helpless creature home to care for it. These fawns have not been abandoned but are still in the care of a doe,” said Ruth.

Does purposely leave fawns alone, but at a safe distance, for a big percentage of a fawn’s first few weeks of life. This is to protect the fawn, which has very little smell, can hide easily with its small size, and has coloration that helps it blend into the environment. A full-grown doe lacks those traits, and is prone to attracting predators. This is obviously a big threat to fawns.

Deer raised by humans, no matter how loving, eventually become a threat to people, said Ruth.

“It is illegal to have a deer in captivity. They grow into semi-tame adult deer and can become quite dangerous. Occasionally, one of these ‘tame’ deer seriously injures someone. And when deer are a threat to humans, they sometimes have to be killed,” he said.

NCWRC officer Brentley Ward agreed, and said it’s illegal to possess wildlife in captivity. He has been involved in cases where captive deer have had to be euthanized. It’s an unpleasant fact, he said, but sometimes it is the only option.

Brian Cope
About Brian Cope 1318 Articles
Brian Cope of Edisto Island, S.C., is a retired Air Force combat communications technician. He has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina and has been writing about the outdoors since 2006. He’s spent half his life hunting and fishing. The rest, he said, has been wasted.