From the Other Publisher: Deer Tales

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Karen Portugal York

While vacationing this week in Aspen, I received a phone call from Susie, my Malibu La Costa next door neighbor. With great anxiety and fire disaster scenarios racing through my mind, I swiped my iPhone and accepted her call. You can imagine my relief (and confusion) when she said, in a very matter-of-fact tone, “I am calling to let you know that there is a dead deer in your back yard. The neighbors have notified the fire department and Capt. Fernandez of Station 70 (Carbon Canyon) is here and wants to speak with you.” 

Oh my God, how in the world did that happen? While we often observe deer in the area, and even see them strolling down a deer path near the house, we have never seen a deer fatality in Malibu other than a road kill — and, this one, evidently a large, adult deer, at that.

“There’s a dead deer in your yard,” Fernandez reiterated. “What do you want to do about it?”  

What did I want to do about it? Hmmm. As a wife, mother of sons, business owner, etc., I have dealt with many challenges that began with the phrase, “What do you want to do about it?” But I’ve never had a deer (or any other large animal) dead in my back yard. What does one do about it? Remove it, of course, but how? And, remember, I am in Aspen, Colorado and the deer carcass is in Malibu. 

“How did the deer die?”  I asked. Don’t ask me why that made a difference in solving the problem. But it seemed important at the time. 

“It appears that a predator got it,” was his response. 

Predator? Adult deer?  Oh my God. 

“What kind of predator can bring down an adult deer?” I asked, recalling that the pack of La Costa coyotes seemed satisfied with local fauna, garbage and small pets. 

“We think it might have been a mountain lion,” he calmly reported. “We’ve had sightings in the area.” 

A dead dear and a mountain lion? In my quite little hillside neighborhood? 

“What do you suggest we do about it?” I queried the very polite captain, employing my best mothering and management delegation skills and reminding him that we were in Colorado. 

“Well,” he said, “I think this may be a something for animal control to deal with. I will give them a call. Going to lunch now, but will get back to you as soon as I know if they can help.”  

At that, I left it to the good captain. And, sure enough, he soon called to say that animal control could and would help and he would get back to me with a progress report ASAP.  

Within a few hours, Captain Fernandez called again and politely and professionally reported that the job was done! The remains were removed and disposed of. Relieved and amazed at the efficient and speedy resolution to the dead deer problem, I didn’t even want to think about what it must have been like for our worthy civil servants and first responders to convey a rotting carcass from our now contaminated hillside lot (a sprinkling of lime on the effected soil was suggested). 

Still, there remained the issue of the alleged perpetrator. Our local mountain lions are out there with several reports of them hanging out in populated areas of East Malibu (please supervise your children and small pets). However, after consulting with the captain’s fellow firefighters, another explanation emerged. 

It seems that when patrolling the area above Carbon Canyon two weeks ago, they had witnessed an adult deer trapped in a fence, thrashing about and severely injuring herself.  Working as quickly as they could to release her, but without the means to confine her or to treat her injuries, she escaped into the brush.  The considered opinion of the Carbon Fire Station team was that this was the deer that had found its way to our yard to die. The predation initially credited to a mountain lion, now attributed the additional injuries to our opportunistic coyote neighbors.  

Needless to say, we are grateful to Captain Fernandez, his team (Engineer Tim Taylor, Firefighter Chris Palmer and Firefighter Joshua Smith), and Officer Yasmin Alvarez with the Los Angeles County Animal Control’s Agoura Hills Animal Shelter for their timely and efficient assistance. Their professionalism and courtesy is a testament to the fact that our tax dollars are being very well spent indeed! Please join Arnold and me in thanking them all for being there for us and for Malibu, not only at times of disaster, but in helping us to cope with the challenges of residing in our exurban wilderness.