You have permission to edit this article.
Edit

Kernville deer wrapped in orange plastic netting tranquilized, rescued by local game wardens

The alerts first went out on social media in the Kern River Valley.

"There’s an adolescent deer in Kernville with orange plastic construction fencing stuck around its neck and front leg," one area resident posted on a local Facebook news and information page in late October.

Days passed. More people posted and commented. Concerns for the deer were growing as several residents reported seeing the animal with orange construction fencing hanging around its neck.

"That kind of fencing can cause strangulation," said Phillip Randle, a game warden for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. "Think of those plastic six-pack rings around sea turtles' necks."

Once the California Department of Fish and Wildlife was notified, Randle, another game warden and a CDFW biologist began searching for the deer over a period of several days.

Once they went out on foot, but every time they approached, the deer spooked.

Meanwhile, there were some complaints — undeserved complaints, Randle said — that nothing was being done.

Just because people talk about it on Facebook doesn't mean the CDFW knows about it, said Lt. Specialist Stephanie McNulty, a public information officer for the department.

But once the department was alerted, they were all over it.

"Things got tricky," she said. Not all CDFW employees are certified to use a tranquilizer on a wild animal. And getting close enough proved to be difficult.

"They had to get pretty inventive," she said.

Finally, the team's persistence paid off on Nov. 6, when Warden Randle returned to the area. He stood in the back of a pickup as another warden drove. He spotted the deer, had a clear shot and took the deer down with the tranquilizer gun.

"It was perfect textbook," he said. "He went down within 5 minutes."

While sedated, the small deer was carried to a patrol vehicle, weighed and examined. The wardens determined he was a healthy young male, about a year old.

They removed the fencing from the young buck's neck and monitored him until he awoke.

"We check heart rate, temperature and respiration every 10 minutes," Randle said.

Once the deer awoke, he ran off safely, though a bit wobbly, into the same area where he was found.

Unfortunately, it isn't uncommon for wild animals to become entangled in ropes, netting, fencing, soccer goals and other materials. These items can easily injure or hamper deer and other wild animals.

Randle recalled the case earlier this year of an elk near Stallion Springs getting his head caught in a tomato cage. Without intervention, the animal likely would have died.

Much of the problem, McNulty said, stems from residents feeding wild animals. The deer and other animals then become less fearful of humans, which is dangerous for wild beasts.

"When people put out heavy grains for deer, it shortens their lives," she said. "It damages their intestines. They weren't meant to eat grains."

Randle was just as adamant.

"People need to stop feeding the deer," he said.

They believe the deer that was rescued was probably fed by Kernville residents. 

This episode had a happy ending.

Everyone, from wardens to residents, want to keep it that way.

The CDFW's "Keep Me Wild" program provides tips and info on what is good and not so good for deer and other wild creatures. For more details, visit wildlife.ca.gov/Search-Results?q=keep%20me%20wild.

Reporter Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter: @semayerTBC.