Monday, July 22, 2024

Authorities ‘dispatch’ injured deer after attracting attention in Oak Island

A deer with a broken back leg meandered the surf yesterday on Oak Island before a call had to be made to euthanize it. (Port City Daily/Courtesy of Ella Hill)

OAK ISLAND — After several hours of limping in the Oak Island surf and igniting pleas for help on social media, the life of an injured white-tailed deer was put to an end Monday by the town’s police department.

Euthanizing the deer was a necessary response given the nature of the situation, according to an island wildlife rehabilitator and the police department.

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“Deer in the surf at OKi pier with broken leg,” David Lewis posted on an Oak Island Facebook group around 9 a.m. “Police or animal control will not do anything. Any advice?”

Answers came rolling in the comments. Some suggested calling the island’s rehab shelter. Others said to put the animal out of its misery.

“Let nature take its course,” one user wrote.

Despite the numerous calls for help and rehabilitation, an Oak Island police officer shot the deer later in the day, Assistant Chief Chris Franks confirmed.

“It was an injured deer that was having difficulty maneuvering around,” Franks explained. “It was stuck in the water and everybody wouldn’t leave it alone, so it wouldn’t come out, so the injured deer that was having difficulty moving around was dispatched.”

North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) did not conduct a site visit but did agree with euthanizing the deer, which was believed to have been hit by a car, based on reports from Oak Island Police Sgt. Loyd Hames. According to Bradley Jordan, senior officer for N.C. WRC, the deer’s back legs were reported to be broken and the deer was dragging.

“He said every time that someone from the public would approach the deer, it would just run off in the surf,” Jordan said.

Over the course of several hours, small crowds formed, taking photos of the deer and sharing them on social media. In the morning, the deer was faltering in the water, seemingly agitated by its audience. Later in the afternoon, officers arrived with a rifle and watched as the deer lay in the sand.

The animal was shot on the beach. A debate unfolded across the island about whether it was the right way to handle the situation.

“I definitely, definitely think the animal could’ve been rehabilitated,” one witness to the scene told Port City Daily. “There was no reason to shoot that animal.”

Jordan confirmed euthanization is a routine response. He said there are no wildlife rehabilitators for white-tailed deer. The alternative was to wait and see if the animal would wander off on its own. It never did.

“If given the opportunity to walk away and make it back to the woods, would that deer survive? If the answer is no, then we are going to dispatch it and put it out of its suffering,” Jordan said.

In a situation such as this one, Jordan said pressuring the animal is the worst thing passersby can do.

“The best way to deal with wildlife is to leave it alone, give it space, especially an injured animal,” he advised. “An injured animal is going to feel very pressured. It’s already in distress so getting close to it, taking pictures, yelling, hollering at it, any kind of movement to it is going to cause more pressure to that animal.”

Sea Biscuit Wildlife Shelter’s Mary Ellen Rogers, a trusted animal rehabilitator in Oak Island, received at least 40 phone calls about the deer Monday, starting at 6 a.m. But her permit only allows her to take in birds and small mammals, including fawns.

“That kind of an animal, unless it could go back to the wild in a reasonably short period of time, probably needed to be euthanized,” Rogers said.

She added deer are fragile to human interaction, anyway. “They’ll just drop dead of a heart attack when they have a really bad situation and they’re surrounded by humans,” she said.

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Alexandria Sands
Alexandria Sands
Alexandria Sands is a journalist covering New Hanover County and education. Before Port City Daily, she reported for the award-winning State Port Pilot in Southport. She graduated from UNC Charlotte and wrote for several Charlotte publications while there. When not writing, Williams is most likely in the gym, reading or spending time with her Golden Pyrenees. Reach her at or on Twitter @alexsands_

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