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The mysterious flopping deer

Out for a run this afternoon, I was on a steep downhill trail that cuts from one cul de sac to another in a nearby subdisivion. Downhill and to my right I saw a doe deer literally flopping down the hill. The animal appeared unable to gain its balance.

I stopped and watched as the deer came to a rest, then I walked down to get a closer look. The doe flopped over a couple more times then lay still. I looked her over as closely as possible and could see no broken legs or apparent gunshot wounds — which was my first guess since the first big game season opened yesterday.

A view of the Sangre de Cristo range from Bear Basin Ranch in the Wet Mountains.
A view of the Sangre de Cristo range from Bear Basin Ranch in the Wet Mountains.

I couldn’t see a thing outwardly wrong with this deer other than it could not stand on its own. So I continued on home and called Alex the homeowners’ association chief to see what he thought we should do. We decided to meet so he could get a look at the deer.

After looking it over we decided to call Colorado Division of Wildlife District Manager Zach Holder who after hearing the story over the phone asked if we could put the deer down since she was obviously incapacitated and in pain.

After the deer was dead, Alex and I inspected her carefully for wounds but could find none. I ran my fingers through the doe’s hair forward and backward looking for a wound. I was startled when I received a jolt of static electricity right through the fingertip of my leather glove, a strange machination of cold, dry air and hollow hair. Both Alex and I suspected some sort of neurological problem with the deer.

I reported all this back to Zach, who is coming out tomorrow morning to retrieve the deer’s head to be tested for chronic wasting disease. He said with only one confirmed case in this game management unit, fewer that 1 percent of the deer in the area are believed to be carrying the disease. It will be interesting to see what tests reveal about this deer I found today. Stay tuned.

For those who are interested, here’s a longer version of my tale, “Goodbye to Summer and Two Horses,” which started as a blog post but then became an essay that appeared in Colorado Central magazine this month.

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