DENVER - Deer are on the move at this time of year migrating and looking for mates. But the animals are prone to getting tangled in summer gear left in backyards, or in decorations and lighting that are beginning to come out as we approach the holiday season. Colorado Parks and Wildlife urges everyone to take down volleyball nets, hammocks and secure hanging lights that deer - especially bucks - can get tangled in.
On Tuesday in Evergreen, two bucks were tangled together in a badminton net. One buck worked itself free before wildlife officers arrived. They were able to untangle the second buck after tranquilizing it.
Last Friday in Parker, wildlife officers had a buck that died from a hammock being wrapped around its head and body, cutting off circulation to its back leg. CPW has already handled a number of elk entanglements this fall as well.
Death is a possibility when it comes to entanglements, whether immediate or down the road. The stress and exhaustion that comes with these conflicts and the animal frantically trying to free itself, is a danger to wildlife.
“We are starting to see more instances of deer becoming tangled in the last two weeks and it will get worse as we get into the rut,” said Wildlife Officer Casey Westbrook. “We are seeing activity increase in deer starting to spar and their general rutting activity and movements are picking up. When in the rut, we see a lot more entanglements.”
The rut - or breeding season - for deer enters its peak in mid-November and will last through mid-December.
During this time, bucks have a one-track mind – they want a mate. So they can become agitated if any other animal, object or person appears to be posing a challenge. Dogs are often targets and they can be badly injured by a buck’s antlers.
Deer can become aggressive toward humans too, so stay well away from them. Do not try to get close for that selfie. Attacks get reported around the state each fall.
Wildlife officers can often get deer untangled if they are nearby and are told about it. In some cases they cut off the animal’s antlers to free it, in other instances they can remove the object. Some cases do not require assistance if the entanglement is not preventing the animal from eating or drinking, or if there is low risk that the animal could get caught up in other items that would prevent it from being mobile.
Over the years, CPW has seen deer, elk and even moose tangled with a variety of items, including: tricycles, tires, garden cages, clothes lines, plastic fencing, lawn chairs, Christmas lights and more.
“Oftentimes we go through heroic efforts to save the animal, but sometimes we can’t save them,” Westbrook said.
As people begin to hang outdoor Christmas ornaments, CPW recommends that lights and other decorations be placed above six feet or attached tightly to trees and buildings. Lights that hang low or that are draped insecurely over vegetation can get tangled easily in antlers.
“At this time of year more deer are seen on the roads and they are also in the middle of the rut,” said Matt Martinez, area wildlife manager in the Denver metro area. “People need to take down the things in their yards that snag antlers and slow down as they’re driving.”
If you see wildlife that does become entangled in anything, wildlife officials ask that you report that directly to CPW by calling an office local to you (the Denver office number is 303-291-7227), or through Colorado State Patrol if it is outside of normal business hours. When calling CSP at 303-239-4501, they will relay your information on to the on-call wildlife officer.
Detailed information wildlife officers would like to know about when it comes to entanglements includes: is the animal mobile or is it tied to an object, is it preventing the animal from eating/drinking/breathing, location, time first observed, what is it entangled in and the behavior of the animal (what it is doing).
You can learn more about living with wildlife by visiting our website.
Photos Below (courtesy CPW)
Left: A buck tangled in a hammock in Lakewood on Sept. 15, 2021
Right: A buck entangled in a badminton net in Evergreen on Nov. 2, 2021