Kathy Harkner said she's no chicken, but after a deer attacked her dog Saturday, the Craig woman is afraid to take her pets outside.
When Harkner's dogs were in her backyard Saturday night, a deer charged out of the field behind her house and gored her 8-year-old Shar-Pei, Abigail.
The deer pinned Abigail to the ground, repeatedly stabbing her in the hip and back, said Harkner, who threw rocks and yelled at the buck before it ran away.
Abigail required more than 100 stitches for the wounds on her hip.
"I have never been afraid of deer, but now I am," Harkner said.
Deer become more aggressive during November and December as they enter mating season, wildlife officials say.
Abigail wasn't barking or provoking the deer, Harkner said. She said she doubts the dog even noticed the deer before being gored. Because Abigail was recovering from cancer, she was unable to run away before the deer caused serious harm.
Harkner has lived at her home on 10th Street for 23 years.
Deer roaming neighborhoods is a common sight in Craig. About four years ago, a doe head-butted one of Harkner's dogs but didn't cause injuries.
Before Saturday, her dogs had never wrangled with a buck, she said.
"I'm not a deer hater," Harkner said. "It's just that I've never seen this happen before."
Officials with the Colorado Division of Wildlife say deer are at their most dangerous while they breed from mid- November through mid-December.
But even then, deer attacks are extremely rare, said Trevor Balzer, district wildlife manager for the area surrounding Craig.
During the mating season, or "the rut," as it's commonly called, male deer can become aggressive, Balzer said.
"If a dog doesn't back down, it could provoke an attack," he said.
Warning signs that a deer may be aggressive are a swollen neck and a very stiff and deliberate walk, Balzer said.
Although deer are common in Craig, it's important that people not treat them like pets, Balzer said.
Attacks more common
"They are not a danger at all, but they are a wild animal," Balzer said. "They should not be treated as a domestic animal in any way."
Deer attacks are becoming more common nationwide as urban areas expand, Balzer said.
In September, a California man was attacked by a deer while gardening. He died as a result of the injuries three weeks later. A man and a woman and several dogs also reported being attacked by deer in California recently, according to reports.
Randy Hampton, a Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman, said though the division has a two-strike policy for bears in residential areas, it doesn't have a formal policy for dealing with deer.
But if a deer is continually aggressive, the division will deal with it, he said.
"Any animal that shows aggression toward humans can be put down by the Division of Wildlife," Hampton said.
But knowing the division will put the deer down if it attacks her or her pets isn't enough for Harkner.
Heier Park is behind her house, and kids play there all the time, Harkner said. If the deer was willing to attack her dog, it could attack the children at the park, she said.
"I'm worried about the whole neighborhood," Harkner said.
Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or firstname.lastname@example.org.