Trevor’s Week - November 30, 2011: Deer rescues are dangerous

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OUR veterinary ambulances from Uckfield and Polegate rushed to the aid of a adult male fallow deer caught by its antlers in strands of rope from an electric fence last week.

Volunteer rescuers Tony Neads, Kate Cuddis and Plumpton College student Zoe Langley, who is on work experience placement with us, attended with myself.

But what faced us was a much more dangerous situation that was first thought. The initial call said a deer had its antlers stuck in barbed wire from a fence and these rescues are normally fairly straight forward to deal with.

But what greeted us was a large stag caught in the rope of an electric fencing in the middle of a field. The deer was able to run back and forth for at least 40-50 metres in either direction away from the original fence line, making it a very dangerous and difficult rescue.

We used a walk-towards net which looks very much like a tennis net with poles at the end to catch the deer. I took one end and Tony took the other and we slowly approached the deer, a couple of times the deer tripped over the rope from the fence and fell to the ground but we were not close enough to secure the deer safely so had to back off.

Eventually by reading the deer’s behaviour, we were able to walk either side of the deer and entangle it in our rescue net and then pin it to the floor.

Deer rescues like this are dangerous and it takes a lot of skill to read caught animals and judge how they are going to react. Their strong and powerful rear legs are extremely dangerous and a heavy kick to a leg or arm would cause a fracture and a blow to your chest could kill you.

In these situations we have a small window of time in which to cut the deer free as once caught the clock starts ticking and we must release the deer within 30 minutes otherwise the deer is likely to have a heart attack.

While I sat on top of the deer securing its ability to move, Tony and Kate set about cutting the rope from the antlers, some of which were extremely tight and not easy to remove.

The £120 walk-to-wards net had to be cut and destroyed in order to get the deer freed as soon as possible.

Once the rope was removed and the walk-to-wards net was being pulled free the deer tried to struggle and Tony, Kate and Zoe had to back away for safety whilst I regained control of the deer for a few seconds – it was a bit of a battle between the deer and I.

I wasn’t going to let the deer get the better of me or it could have seriously injured me. Having quite a few years of experience I managed to keep him under control.

Once the rescue equipment was free and the other rescuers had backed off, I did a controlled release.

The stag stood up straight away and ran off across the field to safety. I’m not sure whose heart was racing the most, mine or the deer!

I find these rescues so stressful as the deer do not know you are trying to help them. We were all pleased to see him free and run off.

We would like to remind people these rescues are very dangerous and members of the public should not attempt them. We are asking people not to cut deer free so that they run off trailing loads of line, rope, wire or netting as deer often become caught a second time as a result.

The second time the deer become caught in an area where it is not found and then have a slow horrible death.

When we catch deer we always aim to remove all the rope or wire to avoid the animal experiencing further problems.

SADLY, Dusty the deer who we rescued from stock fencing, with a severely injured leg, had to be put down this morning.

After a weekend of treatment, he sadly had given up his fighting spirit by this morning.

The sad decision was taken jointly by Chris, Sylvia, myself and one of WRAS’s vets Chris.

Over the previous three days and despite attempts to help Dusty, he had not been able to stand and we are all convinced there were problems with the other three legs preventing him from standing.

We are now sure he would not recover. Very sad, and such a shame that barbed wire has again been used in a place where it really wasn’t necessary.