It’s the Worst Time of Year

Front Page / Apr. 5, 2001 12:00am EDT

It’s the Worst Time of Year

For Deer Tormented by Dogs

For most of us, the extended snow season is a matter of annoyance. For the deer herd, however, it can be a matter of life and death.

Game warden Doug Lawrence stopped by The Herald this week to warn dog owners that the heavy snow pack has created ideal conditions for dogs to run deer, and he urged that owners know where their dogs are at all times.

The heavy snow, especially in the mornings after a freeze, now easily supports the weight of dogs, who can chase across the top of the snow hardly leaving a track, he said. On the other hand, deer with their small feet, sink into the snow somewhat.

This is also the time of year when deer are weakest physically, Lawrence said. They’ve endured many months without adequate food—and the food deprivation is likely to go on longer than usual. The animals are now very, very vulnerable, Lawrence said—just when the dogs are suddenly finding excellent mobility in the woods.

To demonstrate, Lawrence brought with him a deer carcass he had discovered Tuesday on North Main Street in Bethel, right in the settled section of town. The deer had been brought down by dogs, he said, and the result was truly horrible to see.

Unlike coyotes, which kill their prey quickly by biting the throat, dogs kill by attacking the deer’s hindquarters. As the deer runs, the dogs literally eat it alive, biting off pieces of the hindquarters until the deer can no longer run.

The specimen Lawrence brought to The Herald showed evidence of that method. The entire hind-quarters of the deer had been gnawed off, leaving a bloody mass below the backbone and above the legs. Once the deer had fallen, the dogs showed no interest in eating the rest of it, Lawrence pointed out. That’s another way they differ from coyotes as predators, he said.

The warden said he has been getting a call every other day or so about dogs running deer. He warned homeowners that the offenders are not only hunting dogs. Sweet family pets of a non-aggressive nature, even elderly dogs, all can be swept into a killing pack this time of year, he said.

The penalties, of course, can be severe. A warden can kill a dog on sight if he or she sees it attacking a deer. It can also be destroyed after the fact if it is a repeat offender.

Those penalties, however, are not nearly as devastating as what happens to the deer, as was clear by the bloody specimen that Lawrence had in his truck Tuesday.

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