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Utah officials say taped deer encounter put children in harm's way

Published February 5, 2013 11:14 am

YouTube video • They caution that people should not approach, pet wildlife.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

What will likely be a fond lifelong memory for a Herriman family could have easily turned out quite differently.

A YouTube video titled "Dasher Came to Visit!" posted on Christmas Eve shows two, and eventually three, young children playing with and petting a doe mule deer in their front yard.

"This encounter ended well, but it could have easily gone a different direction and the children were in harm's way," said Anis Aoude, big-game coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR). "This is not typical deer behavior, and this deer is likely conditioned to being around humans. Wildlife are unpredictable in their behavior, and we do not recommend that people approach or pet them."

The doe could have accidentally kicked one of the children with her rear legs while romping around. Deer hooves are sharp and can make deep cuts. Deer will also raise up on their back feet and slash their front hooves to protect themselves. Bucks and does will also head butt if they feel threatened.

Some people wondered if the actions of the children were in fact illegal and constituted wildlife harassment.

"Given the fact the deer had walked into a residential neighborhood and it had no natural fear of people shows that it is highly habituated to people," said Capt. Tony Wood, with the DWR's law enforcement section. "If the deer was feeling harassed it could have left and it didn't. The children were not chasing the deer so we would have a hard time calling it harassment. So what they were doing was not illegal. It was not safe or advisable, but it was not illegal."

brettp@sltrib.com