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DEER TROUBLE

Deer attacks 2 residents walking dogs downtown

Such incidents not uncommon when does are fawning in June, July, according to ODFW biologist
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Cyd Ropp talks about the deer that attacked her husband Gary and their two dogs, Zoey, left, and Franny in an Ashland alley Saturday. Jim Craven photoJim Craven
 Posted: 8:50 AM June 29, 2010

Cyd and Gary Ropp were walking their two dogs near Ashland's downtown Post Office Saturday morning when a deer reared up on its hind legs and attacked the dogs.

The attack lasted for more than three minutes and left the couple bloody and bruised from falling on the pavement to avoid the doe, as they tried to protect their dogs. The dogs, Australian shepherd and Labrador retriever mixed breeds, were uninjured, Cyd Ropp said.

"She was trying to kill the dogs and she was attacking us because we were trying to intervene," she said. "She was rearing up, so she was way taller than us, and she was stomping down on us. She definitely wanted to kill the dogs. It was extremely frightening."

The Ashland Police Department has received about five calls from people reporting deer attacks in recent weeks, Police Chief Terry Holderness said.

"This is an annual occurrence in Ashland, in part probably because there's so many people walking dogs in Ashland, and because there's so many deer here," he said.

Attacks are not uncommon in June and early July, when does are fawning, said Steve Niemela, an assistant biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Rogue Watershed District Office.

Last weekend, a dog sitting on a Cave Junction porch was attacked and killed by a doe, he said. It's rare for dogs to be killed in deer attacks, he added.

Niemela said the Cave Junction incident was the first report of a deer attack the department has received this year, but typically it receives between 15 and 20 such reports annually.

Usually, the doe's young fawn is hidden nearby and the doe is simply trying to protect it, he said.

"Almost invariably the reason is because there's a fawn around and the does get very protective," he said. "They can be very aggressive and quite violent."

The deer typically rear up on their hind legs and try to stomp on the dogs or, sometimes, their owners, he said.

Niemela said small- and medium-sized dogs seem to be attacked more often than large dogs. Rarely, humans are attacked when there is no dog present, he said.

It's possible the deer mistake smaller dogs for coyotes or that the deer choose to attack smaller dogs because they are less threatening than larger ones, Holderness said.

During June and early July, people walking with small dogs should avoid areas with deer and should keep dogs on a leash, he said.

People should also avoid giving deer food or water, because as the deer grow more habituated to people, they often become more aggressive, Niemela said.

If a deer is acting aggressively, people should walk away from the area quickly, but should avoid running, he said.

The Ropps, who own The Albion Inn on Union Street, were able to get away from the deer after an unidentified man intervened and distracted the animal, Cyd Ropp said.

The attack occurred in an alley near Third Street, between B and C streets at 10:30 a.m. Ropp called 9-1-1 during the attack because she feared for her life as well as the lives of her husband and their dogs, she said.

"I was yelling bloody murder," she said. "I was yelling 'help,' 'stop,' 'save us!'"

She didn't see a fawn nearby and isn't convinced there was one.

"I think this deer has just gone crazy and because it was chasing us around and was pursuing us as we moved away. I think the deer needs to be relocated," she said. "It was like Bambi gone bad."

She's now afraid to walk her dogs through town, she said.

Deer aren't typically aggressive animals, and the attacks should largely stop in late July, Niemela said.

"They're generally docile animals," he said. "In certain situations they might become defensive or aggressive, but it's important to remember that we get only about 15 or 20 calls a year, and there are literally thousands of deer in Jackson and Josephine counties."

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.



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