Conservation officers kill deer after mishap on campus

Jim Martyka

Boynton Health Service employees watched Tuesday afternoon as an officer from the Department of Natural Resources shot and killed a deer near their office building.
According to witnesses, the buck jumped over a fence and landed in a small courtyard outside the northern part of the building near Coffman Memorial Union. The only way in and out of the yard is through the building. The deer, which witnesses said didn’t appear to be hurt, then got stuck in a ditch next to the building.
Employees called University Police, who arrived on the scene with two state conservation officers. With employees watching through office windows, one of the conservation officers approached the deer and shot it in the neck with a rifle. The officers then took the carcass with them to dispose of it.
Although witnesses said no one complained about the shooting, some employees were upset that nobody told them it was going to happen.
“The deer was two feet away from a window with people watching,” said employee Chris Stalpes. “I think it was a bad call. If they were going to shoot they should’ve said something to us.”
Conservation officer Gary Thell, who shot the deer, said there was no other option.
He said tranquilizing the deer would have been risky because the tranquilizing drugs aren’t reliable. “The deer could wake up at any time while we’re removing it and if that happened what would you do?” he said. “My God, you’d have a fatality on your hands.”
Thell also said he felt bad shooting the deer, even though he knew he had to. Thell said his department’s main job is to protect deer and other wildlife. “I’m not going to put one down unless I have to,” he said. “If there was any other salvation, by all means, we’d do it.”
Thell said the deer could have come from anywhere, but one possibility was from the woods by the Mississippi River, which is near the building.
This isn’t the first time a deer has been killed near campus. According to University Police Sgt. Joe May, police encountered an injured deer by the bridge near Sanford Hall two years ago.
Apparently, the deer had jumped over a fence and dropped more than 40 feet before landing near the railroad tracks. University Police ended up shooting the deer and calling the Department of Natural Resources to pick it up. May said the carcass was never removed.