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Archive for Saturday, September 16, 2000

Farmer killed by deer

Couple had raised wild animal as pet

September 16, 2000

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— Animal experts say the mauling of a southeast Kansas woman by a pet deer reinforces the danger of attempting to domesticate wildlife.

Bourbon County authorities said Margaret Hershberger, 75, was attacked and killed Tuesday at her home near Mapleton by a deer that she and her husband raised from infancy.

Sheriff Harold Coleman said the woman went into the farmyard to shut her chickens in for the night. Her husband, Richard, went to find her when she did not return after 15 minutes.

Margaret Hershberger's gored and cut body, along with the whitetail deer named Mojo, were found close by, Coleman said. Her husband locked the 200-pound, six-point buck in a nearby pen and called authorities.

"The deer was able to come and go in the pen," Coleman said. "The buck was about 8 years old as I understand it. The couple raised it and fed it. The buck had antlers, four points on one side and one point on the other."

The deer was destroyed by Undersheriff Dion O'Dell. Antlers and other evidence were turned over to Department of Wildlife and Parks officials.

"We are ruling it an accidental death," Coleman said. "The buck was evidently going into the rut. It had a puffed neck and the antlers were polished. There was also evidence of rubs and scrapes, typical of the rut, around the area.

"People have to understand that deer are wild animals. They get freaky. This is a horrible example of what can happen when you try to tame wild animals."

Lloyd Fox, deer biologist for Wildlife and Parks, said the animals usually were aggressive only toward other deer, such as when establishing territory. However, it is illegal in Kansas to pen wild animals.

"Unlike a truly wild animal, a deer raised in these circumstances would not have a natural fear of humans," he said. "A wild deer would run from any contact with humans."

Fox said he could remember only one other incident of this sort. "It happened near Derby," he said, "I think about seven or eight years ago, when a raised deer attacked a man. It forced him into a pond and he eventually drowned it, but he was injured."

The deer was sent to Kansas State University for analysis.

Because of the aggressive nature of male deer, the staff of the Sedgwick County Zoo will not enter the animals' area. Mike Quick, curator of mammals for the Sedgwick County Zoo, said an adult male deer can weigh up to 300 pounds.

Hooved animals "can kick from the front and back legs," Quick said. "The hooves on deer especially are very sharp."

Family members said the animal was bottle-fed from an early age. Quick said that such hand-raised deer often attack once they reach sexual maturity.

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