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In The Field

An illegal act in Hayden caused quite a stir this week. A poacher launched an arrow at a doe whitetail deer. Unfortunately, the arrow hit the deer. Fortunately, the arrow struck the scapula and only slightly penetrated the animal's shoulder. Time will tell, but the animal stands a good chance of recovery on its own. It is also unfortunate the story didn't end there with the arrest of the perpetrator! A less than objective newspaper account of the incident in a Spokane based newspaper could lead readers to believe that Idaho Fish and Game employees don't care about wildlife because we didn't rush to the scene and remove the arrow. On the record, people don't pursue these careers if they don't care about wildlife! But that story must not sell many Spokane newspapers. Now you'll hear, the rest of the story. While we at Fish and Game like to think of ourselves as athletic, none of us can run down a whitetail. The only way to capture the deer is to dart it with an immobilizing drug. The arrow could then be excised, the wound cleansed, antibiotics applied, an antidote injected. If everything goes perfectly, the deer comes around and trots off with its twin fawns waiting patiently nearby... and all is well. There are times when all doesn't go well with immobilization drugs. While we use them on occasion, there are numerous risks to the animal and to people. The trained officer on the scene must accurately judge the weight of the animal, calculate the correct dosage and the proper propellant charge, and load the syringe all while the animal stands by. He/she must then get into a position to get a good shot at the rump of the animal with absolutely no possibility of missing the target. A little left or right and the dart enters the body cavity and is immediately fatal. I personally was involved in a darting effort of a bull moose cornered in a car wash in downtown Pocatello. The moose turned just as the shooter pulled the trigger. The moose dropped instantly. That is not a good thing, as the drugs take several minutes to enter the blood stream. The moose died in 20 minutes. An internal examination revealed that the dart had missed the rump and entered the liver. If the shot misses completely, a hypodermic needle on a syringe filled with a drug dose lethal to humans, is lying somewhere in the area and a search must be undertaken to find it. If the shot is perfect, the drugs take several minutes to take effect. In the interim, an unconfined deer can travel a great distance. There is no blood trail, and likely several sets of tracks leading from the area. The deer must be found to make the whole effort work (remove the arrow), and to administer the necessary antidote to reverse the effects of the drug. The deer in Hayden is one that is regularly seen in an area where people feed deer to keep them out of their ornamental landscape plants. The arrow was first observed on the 22 of Oct, more than three weeks after the close of the deer archery season. The deer was certainly shot during the closed season... not by a hunter, rather by a poacher. However, the deer rifle season in the area opens on November 1. Should the deer in Hayden be tranquilized, by federal law it must be quarantined for 45 days because of the open hunting season. The drug must be metabolized to not pose a threat to humans should it be taken during the hunting season. The initial call to the IDFG was received on Sunday. The Officer and the caller agreed the best course of action was to watch the animal, with the expectation that the arrow would fall out. Once out, the wound would heal and life for the deer and its twin fawns would go on as it had prior to this illegal shooting. If the arrow remained, the deer could be immobilized later as a last resort. On Wednesday afternoon, numerous deer were observed in the area but none had apparent injuries. Hopefully the arrow is out and the story is over except for the time necessary for the shoulder to heal. IDFG employees and ethical hunters care about wildlife. A true hunter, hunting during the open archery season, would have pursued the deer to provide nutritious meat for the dinner table. A poacher doesn't have the option of following an injured animal around for fear of being caught. With some help from the public, this one could be caught. The toll free number for the Citizens Against Poaching program is 1-800-632-5999. Callers can remain anonymous and rewards are available.