Volunteers unable to save injured deer


For animal lover Lisa Sprafka it was a heart-breaking end to a long night. For three hours she worked to comfort a young deer that had been hit by a car and left by the side of the road. For three hours, she tried to find an agency to help. For three hours, she waited for animal control. When the injured animal was put to sleep, she turned away in tears.

Getting someone to respond was frustrating from the start. When she went to the local fire station, they gave her a shrug. A sheriff’s deputy told her to suffocate the deer with a plastic bag or run it over with her car. He may have been kidding, but to Sprafka, it was far from funny. “He told me they’re not allowed to shoot them anymore, and he was serious,” Sprafka recalls.

There, at Avenida de Encinal, she comforted the doe while neighbors tried to get an animal control agency to respond. A call was placed to California Wildlife Center, a 24-hour emergency response agency in Malibu Canyon. While wildlife emergencies vary, this particular case would ordinarily have fallen under the jurisdiction of California Fish and Game, but after reviewing the circumstances by telephone, the agency turned the case over to animal control. An officer from the Agoura Animal Shelter responded and decided the deer was beyond saving.

While killing the doe seemed to be a drastic and unnecessary measure, as far as Sprafka was concerned, it was probably the most humane one. “There are not always happy endings,” said Wildlife Center Executive Director Aaron Frank. “Sometimes euthanizing is better than having the animal suffer.” The center’s president, Rebecca Dmytryk, adds that broken legs are a lot more serious for animals than they are for people, especially wild animals. “If it can’t walk and it can’t run, it can’t survive on its own.”

The wildlife center is still renovating its new facility in Malibu Canyon to rehabilitate injured animals, but not all can be saved. As Dmytryk points out, “We want people to remember that wild animals are wild.”

Another thing the group wants people to remember is that deer are migrating at this time of year. That means they will be crossing the paths of both people and cars, and drivers are advised to be careful and alert. A little extra caution last week might have spared the life of one little deer traveling on Avenida de Encinal and spared Sprafka a few tears.

The California Wildlife Center responds to sick, injured or ophaned wildlife 24 hours a day. Call 457-WILD.