Citizens come to the rescue of antler-locked bucks
- Dick Mason
Two white-tailed bucks became the wildlife equivalent of Siamese twins Saturday morning when their antlers locked while sparring near Elgin.
Unlike most deer in similar predicaments these animals survived thanks to the efforts of a group of concerned residents. Their tools ropes, a saw, blankets and a large dose of fatigue.
The deer were as tired as heavyweight boxers in the 15th round of a fight when they were found on the Trick Ranch in the Indian Creek area around 8:30 a.m. Monday. The fatigue made it much easier to handle them.
"There wasn't much of a struggle (because of the fatigue),'' said Pete Trick of Elgin.
Pete Trick and his wife Memory, operate the Trick Ranch, which is owned by Pete's grandfather Les Trick.
The first step to separating the deer was roping their hind legs. It was not a problem since everyone helping has worked on ranches.
"Everybody there had roped a calf or two,'' Memory Trick said.
With people pulling the bucks' roped legs, blankets were placed over the their eyes to calm them. Then Ryan Seeger of Elgin sawed the antlers of one deer until the two were free of each other.
What followed next was a study in contrast.
One of the bucks sprinted away instantly. The other buck lay almost motionless for 20 to 30 minutes.
"I thought it was going to die,'' Memory Trick said.
Suddenly he got his wind back, appeared as energized as someone who had finished a triple espresso and ran off.
"It was like a bolt of lightning had hit and he was gone,'' Memory Trick said.
Memory will never forget how her two boys, Les, 4, and Kadyn, 2, responded when they first saw the deer locked together.
"They said, Those deer are stuck together. Daddy has to get them apart,' '' Memory said.
The Elgin group did not attempt to separate the deer until first contacting Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Leonard Erickson of La Grande. He told them it would be OK to separate them if the animals were tired and if proper precautions were taken. Erickson warned that the deer could seriously hurt people if precautions were not followed.
Ideally, Erickson prefers to tranquilize deer who are locked together and then separate them. The biologist said that this could not be done Saturday because archery season for deer and elk is still open.
Erickson said if the deer had been tranquilized and harvested by hunters a short time later their meat could not be eaten because the sedation drugs would still be in their system. Ear tags would have had to be attached warning hunters not to eat the animals' meat unless they were harvested after a certain date.
Erickson advises anyone seeing deer or elk whose antlers are locked to always call the ODFW or the Oregon State Police before taking action.
The deer whose antlers were locked Saturday may have been playing rather than fighting since whitetails do not enter their rut until late in the fall. Bucks are more likely to fight each other once the rut starts.
Many members of the group that separated the deer Saturday are hunters.
"I hope they come back bigger next year,'' Memory Trick said. "Sometimes hunting is not about the kill but the conservation side.''