Readers this week were reporting the Rockrimmon buck with the mangled antlers, swollen leg and drooping ears was missing from his ledge at Vindicator Drive and Rockrimmon Boulevard.
The buck first appeared before Christmas, obviously injured and suffering. It seemed to be trying to hide behind bushes on the ledge of a retaining wall beneath an apartment complex.
Its magnificent, oddly twisting antlers made it impossible to hide.
Passersby easily spotted it at the busy intersection, prompting worried folks to feed it and call for action on its behalf.
In the following weeks, I watched as crowds of onlookers gathered daily at the Safeway shopping center across the street. And I received regular updates from people who saw it wandering in nearby neighborhoods.
Some even lashed out at me, declaring that by writing about the buck, it’s blood would be on my hands if it died for some reason!
Anyway, after the buck went missing over the weekend, I called Michael Seraphin at the state Division of Parks and Wildlife to see if anyone had filed a “Missing John Doe” report. Or, in this case, John Deer.
I was surprised at what I learned.
The deer wasn’t missing, Seraphin said. It was captured by wildlife officers and removed Friday night.
It seems as the deer napped on his ledge, it was deer-napped by wildlife officers who tranquilized it for safe transport.
They took the deer to the agency’s regional office on Sinton Road where it was examined, treated for an infected wound to its leg, clipped of its antlers and put in a heated garage for the night.
“They gave him a good medical exam and determined he didn’t seem to have any broken bones,” Seraphin said. “He did have an injury to his leg that had a mild infection. So we gave him antibiotics.”
Though the deer’s impressive antlers would have fallen off naturally in a few weeks, officers chose to cut them off to take the bull’s eye off the animal, allowing him to further heal in peace.
“We removed the antlers so he doesn’t keep getting in fights with other deer,” he said.
At dawn Saturday, the deer was re-assessed for any after-effects of the tranquilizer. Once it was deemed hang-over free, officers took it to an undisclosed open space south of Colorado Springs and released back into the wild.
Actually, it’s in a far more wild environment than it had experienced on its Rockrimmon ledge.
There, people were plying the deer with apples, cranberries, lettuce, grapes and tubs of water.
“There was concern it was not getting the proper diet and becoming wholly dependent on people,” Seraphin told me. “For example, someone put hay up there on its ledge and other foods that aren’t normally part of its diet like grapes and lettuce. Deer can’t digest hay well.”
In addition, folks were walking up to the animal — some with babies in their arms — to get a closer look at it.
Wildlife officials were concerned that folks were putting themselves at risk of a close encounter with its antlers should the deer, estimated at 200 pounds and at six to eight years old, had spooked for any reason.
The prospect of the buck bolting into traffic or whacking a child walking to school or even dying on the ledge in front of a crowd was especially troubling to officials.
In the end, its growing celebrity status doomed its stay in Rockrimmon and led officials to risk tranquilizing it and removing the buck.
“Everything went fine,” Seraphin said. “You never know how they’ll handle being tranquilized. It can be a difficult process. They can die from it.”
Not this tough old buck. It woke up Saturday and was healthy enough for release.
“We didn’t want to keep him too long,” Seraphin said. “We checked him at first light. He seemed alert. So we took him out and released him. The operation went smoothly.”
So you folks who live and hike southeast of town, keep an eye out next fall for an old buck with a magnificent rack. It may have antlers twisting in all directions, even under its chin. I’ll be interested to hear how he’s doing!