Have you heard the one about the 5 deer in the backyard pool?

October 25, 2007|By DAN RODRICKS

And now for something completely different, but not that hard to believe in the age of suburbs and exurbs - five deer trapped in a Baltimore County swimming pool. Here we have the classic collision of wildlife and suburbanization, only there's no road kill involved and this story has a relatively happy ending.

The accidental pool party occurred Sunday morning at the home of Bob and Judi Olwine on St. Paul Avenue in Woodstock, which is near Granite and Patapsco Valley State Park, at the point where Baltimore County meets Howard County meets Carroll County.

The Olwines have owned the house for a while but moved into it only a couple of months ago. During that time, Bob Olwine says, he'd not seen a single deer in his yard.

Sunday morning, he and his wife, Judi, were closing the pool for the season.

For a few minutes, the gate in the fence around the pool was open, just long enough for two deer, one with antlers, to strut in and go for a refreshing swim.

They didn't jump in.

They didn't fall in.

They didn't push each other in.

Bob Olwine saw them walk down the steps and descend into four feet of water.

"They probably just figured it was a small pond and they could swim across," says Brian Eyler, a deer biologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. "I've heard of deer getting stuck in pools before, but don't know anyone who actually saw them walk in."

Bob Olwine did.

He was pretty amazed by the whole thing.

And even more amazed when, in the next instant, three smaller deer showed up and pawed and clawed their way under the fence in an attempt to get into the pool area. They apparently wanted to go swimming, too.

"They were really agitated, and really wanted to get in," Olwine says. "I did not try to stop them."

Once inside the fence, the three smaller deer jumped into the water one after another.

The Olwines now had five deer in their pool.

And the deer splashed and swam and tried desperately to raise their hooves to the concrete edge to get out of the pool.

"They were panic-stricken," Judi Olwine says.

She and her husband decided to do what any baffled suburban couple would do in this situation: They got rifles from the hall closet and ...

Just kidding!

Strike that last phrase!

The Olwines called 911.

Their call to Baltimore County police came in as "deer in pool," and the officers who responded didn't know what to think.

I mean, this isn't something they go over at the academy.

Baltimore County police had an experience a couple of years ago with nine escapees from a bison farm in Green Spring Valley, the escapade concluding on a tennis court.

But five deer in a 16-by-32-foot swimming pool with a plastic liner?

That was a new one.

"Deer are actually good swimmers," says Eyler, deer project leader with the DNR's Wildlife and Heritage Service. "Their hair is hollow, so they have a lot of natural buoyancy. I've seen deer swim the Nanticoke River.

"I doubt this had anything to do with [Maryland's current drought]," he says. "I don't think they were thirsty or looking for water. Deer get water from the vegetation they eat ... and these yearly droughts we experience don't seem to affect them much."

As for all five deer taking a dive at the same time - Eyler attributes that to group dynamics, possibly young males playing follow-the-leader at the start of the breeding season.

The Olwines found their uninvited guests less than congenial.

"Oh, they're good swimmers all right," says Bob Olwine. "We'd go to one end of the pool to try and help them out, and they'd swim to the other end."

Four Baltimore County police officers arrived, then a fifth officer with a long snatch pole, the kind commonly used to ensnare stray dogs. They spent the next hour or so trying to get the deer out of the pool, says Judi Olwine.

The deer didn't like the snatch pole, says Bob Olwine, but that was their ticket out of the pool.

Four deer were ensnared and hoisted out of the pool.

A fifth managed to climb onto the back of a fellow traveler and pull himself out of the water.

"They just wandered off after that," says Judi Olwine. "They were pretty exhausted."

Such is the life of the party animal.


ONLINE Find Dan Rodricks' column archive and blog at baltimoresun.com/rodricks

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