Snow Pushes Deer From Foothills to U

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Deer and Moose Cause Campus Accidents, Stress

Laura B. Weiss

Chronicle Opinion Editor

Deer don’t mix well with humans, according to U Police Sgt. Don Bird.

And with the significant influx of wild animals on campus, this mixture has lead to several clashes.

“The amount of deer this year has just been unbelievable,” said U spokeswoman Coralie Alder.

Since last January, UUPD has responded to 13 campus incidents involving deer and two involving moose.

“With the deeper snowfall on the hills this year, it is naturally harder for them to get around, so they come down for food,” Bird said.

Bird estimates that between 50 and 60 deer are currently on campus, seeking cover under pines during the day and eating from trees and shrubs at night.

“When they are hungry, they will pretty much eat anything,” Bird said.

Though their culinary tastes haven’t raised any eyebrows on campus, the deer population’s movement has become dangerous in recent months.

At night, the combination of car lights and noise causes the deer to panic and dart across busy campus streets.

According to Bird, Guardsman Way and Wasatch Drive are host to the most accidents involving vehicles and deer, and the outcomes of the encounters are not pleasant.

“Out of the 13 reported incidents last year, 12 of the deer were killed or had to be killed,” U Detective Troy Martinez said.

Police procedures require that if an injured animal cannot get up on its own, police must kill it.

“We use a shotgun from within 20 feet. We put it down as humanely as we can,” Bird said.

Only once this year has the U police department been able to save an animal.

On Dec. 10, a deer broke through a patio window and entered the West Institute Building.

“Deer don’t know what windows are. When I arrived, the deer was just standing in the lobby,” Bird said.

Though deer are not naturally aggressive animals, this specific situation was volatile.

“When deer are cornered, they will do whatever they can. There was a day-care facility downstairs. The deer had horns and feet, and was prepared to use them,” Bird said.

Bird secured the area and contacted Wildlife Resources officials, who then used a tranquilizer gun to pacify the animal.

However, according to Bird, tranquilizer guns are not as effective on deer as on other animals.

“It is really hard to judge how much to use,” he said.

Though deer can inflict thousands of dollars’ worth of damage on vehicles, university drivers are in greater danger with the recent influx of moose on campus roadways.

In the last month, Bird has responded to two calls regarding moose. On Dec. 10, Bird received a call about an adult female moose and baby moose that were found dead on the side of Chipeta Way, the road connecting the residence halls to Research Park.

A biologist reported the calf had a broken leg and the moose had a broken shoulder.

Bird was perplexed by the case.

No one had filed an accident report either with the U’s police department or with the Salt Lake City Police Department, and Bird suspects it was a hit and run of sorts, involving a bus or large vehicle.

“By size, moose are a lot more dangerous than deer. They are not as forgiving,” Bird said.

Bird is concerned that more moose will make their way down to Foothill Drive.

“Moose stand tall. If you hit one, it will come straight through your windshield,” he said.

With heavier snowfalls than the last two years, this year has been, and will continue to be, hazardous for human animal encounters.

“At night if we see a herd by the road, we turn on the sirens and try to move them. But they are so stressed, they don’t have the energy to run,” Bird said.

Police have precautions drivers can take.

“Be alert. We are on a mountain side. Drive with caution,” Martinez said.

Bird advises that if drivers see a deer 10 to 20 feet from the road, they should not discount the chance that it is dangerous.

“If half of the herd is on one side of the road, a deer is going to run across the street to join it?even if there are cars,” he said.

With no sign that snow depths will decrease, Bird suspects deer and moose will remain a campus hazards.

“It’s all just part of living with wildlife as our neighbors,” he said.

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