Wild in Wildlife Means Wild

By Kevin Hays

WALDPORT, OR–For 11-year-old Amber Staron of Salem, seeing wildlife “up close and personal” is something that happens frequently on her aunt and uncle’s 70-arce property just outside Waldport on the Oregon coast. (Amber with “Baby” just before the attack. Photo by Kevin Hays)

What is normally a great thrill, turned to near tragedy Sunday when the 4-yr.-old deer, who has been raised since it was a fawn around adult and kids, turned from friendly to wild in the blink of an eye.

The deer, named Baby, was raised by her aunt and uncle after they found her on the side of the road east of Waldport. Baby, at the time was 4-months old, and it’s mother had been hit by a car and killed. They took the young fawn, nursed it, cared for it, raised it as a pet, and up until Sunday, it had NEVER attacked anyone.

Some local loggers had a more typical up close visit from the deer Friday during their lunch break. Baby walked over to them to find out what was for lunch. One of the loggers said, “man that’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen, it is so tame, It has to be someone’s pet.”

Sunday morning, the fawn was outside the aunt and uncle’s home walking around looking for something to eat, when Amber’s mom and dad went outside to look at her. As they stood there, baby came walking right-up to them, sniffing and licking them, just acting like she always has.

Mom and Dad went back inside the home to help to prepare breakfast, while Amber and her sister Christina, took their clothes and things to the truck to get ready to leave for home. The deer followed the girls. Then, while walking back to the house, the deer suddenly went into attack mode, and pinned Amber against a wooden trellis!

“She had me where she wanted me, I just covered my face and yelled and screamed at the top of my lungs for help, I thought that running would just make the situation worse,” Amber Staron said.

Hearing the yelling a screaming, her dad saw the deer on it’s two hind feet, it’s body holding the girl against the trellis, while using it’s to front feet to beat her like a drum.

“It was the wildest thing I’ve ever seen in my life, Amber’s father said. It was like watching “When Animals Attack” only in real life. I ran out of the house yelling that the deer was attacking Amber, and without really thinking, I just ran straight at the deer to get it to stop, then when she did, I realized that the deer’s new focus was me, so I stopped, turned tail and ran, looking back and seeing the deer coming right after me, I found a tree, ran around it, confusing her, and the aunt was able to get the deer to run off in another direction.”

While all of this was going on, Amber’s mother was able to grab her, wrap her up in her arms, and get her into the house. She was very shaken and scarred from the attack, fortunately she only sustained some minor cuts and scrapes to her back and hands, and a big bump on her head.

“She is the friendliest deer in the world, always very gentle around kids and adults, never, ever, did I think something like this would ever happen” Amber’s mother Carmen said.

Wildlife experts say wild animals (including deer, bison, sheep, elk, and moose) are individualistic and unpredictable. Animals that ignore you, look calm, or appear friendly, may suddenly and without warning charge or strike out. Human injury often occurs when an animal responds to a perceived threat with instinctive “fight or flight” behavior, and people get injured simply because they are in the animal’s way. A car horn, barking dog, or excited children can trigger an animal into fight or flight behavior.

Unlike zoo, farm, and captive animals, wildlife pose special dangers to children. Explain to children the differences between wild and domestic animals so they will know why it is important not to approach, touch, or feed the wildlife.

For their own safety, children should:

  • Always be within close reach and sight of guardians
  • Avoid playing in or near dense cover
  • Refrain from squealing or making other animal-like noises while hiking or playing
  • Be warned not to approach animals, especially baby animals
  • Never pet, feed, or pose for a photo with a wild animal, even if the animal appears tame

Many mistakenly believe that there are specific gestures and warning signals wild animals make that will give people time to retreat to safety.
Wildlife experts recommend keeping at least 100 yards or farther away from bears and 25 yards from other large animals.

As for Amber, she said she has no ill feelings towards Baby. “Something must of spooked her and I was in the wrong place at the wrong time when that happened, and she saw me as a threat.”

Either way, Amber says she will probably have the best “what did you do over the summer story” for her classmates when she returns back to Mary Eyre Elementary School this fall.

“I can say I got attacked by a deer, what did you do?” –Salem-News