Hormones of local deer make wildlife go, well, wild

October 31, 2002|By KEVIN COWHERD

IF YOU THINK the deer around here have been acting even more crazy than usual, you're right on the money.

And if you're wondering why they're acting even more crazy, it's because they're all in a state of - how to put this? - acute longing for one another.

This, at any rate, is the reason being offered for why two deer smashed through the window of a McDonald's in Washington last week.

And it's also why a deer went crashing through the safety glass in the lobby of Cockeysville Middle School the other day, gallivanting about until the principal, a courageous and dedicated educator named Phil Taylor, cornered the deer in a classroom and, shortly thereafter, got on the PA system and announced: "Venison will be served in the cafeteria."

OK, I'm only kidding about the venison. The deer was actually tranquilized and taken to nearby woods and released, all but guaranteeing that it finds its way into my back yard to eat all the flowers.

But in both cases, wildlife experts attribute the strange behavior of the deer to the same thing: raging hormones.

"What's going on is that the deer are in the reproductive mode," Doug Hutton, a deer expert with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, told me yesterday.

This starts in mid-October and begins to peak just about now, when the deer scene around here apparently resembles spring break on South Padre Island, minus the empty kegs.

"During the first two weeks of November, more fawns are conceived than at any other time of the year," Hutton said.

Anyway, the two male deer who crashed through the McDonald's window, they might have been so lovesick they became disoriented.

But the deer at Cockeysville Middle, Hutton said, "could have seen his reflection in the glass and related that to be competition."

In other words, he thought it was another buck looking for action.

And since there's only so much action to go around, he decided to drive off his rival, which is why he crashed through the glass.

Now, you would think a deer would see a reflection in the glass and think: "Hmmm, he's got a 6-point antler just like me. He weighs about 120 pounds just like me. And he's brown and has the exact same markings as me.

"Why, you don't suppose that's me, do you?!"

But deer apparently are not the smartest animals around.

So this deer crashed through the glass - Taylor told me yesterday it "sounded like an explosion" - and went barreling through the lobby.

Then it somehow made its way into a classroom where 15 students and two teachers were listening to the morning announcements. And then it leaped over one of the teachers.

Perhaps we should go over that part again.

Yes, the deer actually leaped over a teacher who was sitting at her desk taking attendance!

Now, I don't know about you. But if I'm a teacher and a deer comes steaming into the classroom and leaps over me, I'm pretty much thinking: Well, there goes the lesson plan for today.

Because it's going to be pretty hard to keep the kids' attention after that.

If you were talking about, say, the metric system and now there's a deer crashing around in your classroom, I don't see your students focusing on liters and centimeters and what have you with quite the same single-mindedness as before.

Most kids, when they see a deer crashing around next to them, tend to have the same reaction, which is to scream and flee the room.

Anyway, it was about at this point that Taylor arrived on the scene.

The students and teachers were quickly evacuated. Then, said Taylor, "I grabbed a chair and started pushing the deer [to the corner]."

This is a move that runs somewhat counter to my way of thinking in these situations.

Faced with a bloody, agitated deer stomping around a few feet away from me, I tend to move in the opposite direction.

Then I tend to grab a cell phone, dial 911 and scream: "THERE`S A @#$%&* DEER TRYING TO KILL ME!!!"

But Taylor, God bless him, managed to trap the frightened animal behind a wall of desks and chairs, where it stayed until the DNR people arrived.

As of yesterday, Cockeysville Middle was no worse for wear over the incident.

Taylor said teachers and students were still buzzing about it. He said the school was even considering adopting the new motto of - yes, you could see this one coming up York Road - "The buck stops here."

Actually, he stops in my back yard, if you want to quibble.

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