• Deer attack leaves Ashland woman shaken up

    Ashland woman's ordeal highlights does' aggressiveness this time of year
  • ASHLAND — A woman who was cornered and attacked by a deer, resulting in multiple cuts and bruises, is asking the City Council to launch a program to sterilize deer or put them on contraceptives "before someone gets killed."
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  • ASHLAND — A woman who was cornered and attacked by a deer, resulting in multiple cuts and bruises, is asking the City Council to launch a program to sterilize deer or put them on contraceptives "before someone gets killed."
    The attack occurred at 5:30 a.m. June 7, when Amy Felmley, 52, let her dog Buddy out into a small fenced area in the backyard of her house, a block from the city library. A doe attacked the dog and had him crouched between her front legs, prompting Felmley to dash out, waving her arms.
    "The deer ran at me and pinned me against the house, behind a big bush. She was much bigger than me, and it was all hooves for about a minute," says Felmley, showing scabbed-over cuts on her legs, arms and head.
    "I screamed bloody murder for help, but no one came. Buddy jumped in and tried to scare her off, which he did. He saved my life. I was in shock, hyperventilating and shaking uncontrollably. I'm still rather traumatized."
    After Felmley — who is five feet tall and 100 pounds — calmed down, she drove to the emergency room and got X-rays. Doctors told her it was best to let the cuts heal naturally, rather than stitching them up and possibly trapping infection inside.
    When Felmley told her story to others, she found little support for herself but lots for the wildlife.
    "Their first response was not, 'are you OK?' but that I should have known better and the deer must have fawns nearby," says Felmley. "They blamed the victim, me, and this helps them ignore the problem. ... Bears and cougars were here but got relocated or euthanized. We're not willing to accept that deer are just as dangerous."
    Ellen Campbell of the Chanticleer Bed & Breakfast, located a block from where the attack occurred, expressed horror at the incident and noted that the last deer census (in which she takes part) counted 16 deer in the neighborhood.
    "That felt like a lot," Campbell said. "They're fawning right now and are very aggressive, especially if they see a dog. They consider dogs predators and will proactively defend fawns."
    Felmley got busy researching the efforts of Ashland and other towns, learning that sterilization and contraception have been tried elsewhere with some success. In Ashland, she found records of aggressive encounters against humans and dogs, but no actual attacks on a person.
    She will meet this week with City Councilor Carol Voisin, who sits on the unofficial Wildlife Committee and takes part in the twice-yearly deer census.
    "That area (above the library) is known for very young deer, and this is their birthing time. They have birthed right in the Chanticleer yard before," says Voisin. "They are terribly protective. You do not go near a deer at this time of year."
    Voisin emphasized she is very upset about the attack.
    "I do not try to pooh-pooh what she said. I have lots in my yard, and I've learned how to deal with them over the years."
    Proposals for sterilization, contraception and removal of deer have been discussed at special town meetings in the past, says Voisin, and have not been proven to work in peer-reviewed studies. In addition, they are all very expensive.
    Most residents with heavy deer populations, she says, have put up tall deer fences. It proves effective and is affordable, but it forces the deer into wildlife corridors, such as streams and surrounding areas, says Voisin. The city ban on deer feeding has also "made a big difference" in deer numbers.
    "Still, a lot of families still feed deer, and where that happens, you see a lot of deer," she notes. "When we get complaints, officers will contact the people."
    In addition, Voisin adds, nature has her ways, mainly via disease, hunger and the elements. With the spread of fencing, deer are not getting enough food, thus lowering their resistance and making them susceptible to diseases, especially skin problems. These cause fur shedding, leaving them without protection against winter freezes.
    "Once deer are vulnerable, anything can wipe them out. I can see their ribs. They're starving. This is not a big herd, and it's likely it will be wiped out — and with much less expense."
    John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.
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