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Suddenly, Bambi’s mom turned into Thumper

Slightly Skewed Jack Knox A couple of wild wildlife stories this week: First came a scary bear attack at a Sproat Lake campground, in which East Sooke's Jay Vinden suffered head wounds and other injuries, while friend Bruce Doyle, who rushed to his r

Slightly Skewed

Jack Knox

A couple of wild wildlife stories this week:

First came a scary bear attack at a Sproat Lake campground, in which East Sooke's Jay Vinden suffered head wounds and other injuries, while friend Bruce Doyle, who rushed to his rescue from a nearby tent, was less severely hurt. The black bear was later shot.

Then came news that a doe with fawns had charged at a 65-year-old Gordon Head woman on Brousson Drive, stalked her around a truck, then stomped her dog - raising fears that Victoria's burgeoning urban deer population had finally stumbled across crystal meth. No other explanation for Bambi suddenly turning into Thumper.

Except there is: habituation to humans.

"Across North America, we're seeing more urban deer conflicts everywhere," says the Environment Ministry's Mike Badry, whose job it is to keep people and wildlife from butting heads/antlers.

That bear attack, it was actually something of a rarity, only the second ever recorded on Vancouver Island in which the victim suffered an injury.

(The first was just two years ago, when a bear mauled a fisherman in Port Renfrew.)

Anecdotal evidence says it's the urban deer - as comfortable hailing a cab after clubbing downtown as they are mincing through your garden - that are becoming more pushy.

"They realize that people aren't a threat," Badry says.

The presence of a dog, rather than deterring deer, might actually trigger aggression, particularly at this time of year when does are protecting their young.

The key to preventing habituation is the same whether you're dealing with bear, deer, or relations from Alberta: Don't feed them. Keep food and toiletries in a bear-proof cache or hanging out of reach when camping.

Harvest your fruit trees. Fence your garden. Use repellents. (A Victoria caller said she keeps urban deer at bay by spraying her plants with meat meal. My dad had a similar remedy; he sprayed the deer with lead.)

Alas, the fear is that while you might do everything you can to keep human/animal interaction to a minimum, you still might bear (as it were) the consequences of some other bozo's decision to feed the critters.

Ten years ago, wolves on Vargas Island, off Tofino, dragged a UVic student out of his sleeping bag by his head; it turned out kayakers had been feeding them hot dogs. People equaled food.

Lord knows there's no shortage of Darwin Award applicants when it comes to wildlife:

n This past Monday, a woman filming a bull bison in Yellowstone national park ended up getting tossed around like a beach ball at a Grateful Dead concert after A) she stalked it into the bush and got way too close and B) somebody hit the animal with a thrown stick. Even the Dalai Lama would turn Rambo if you chased him into his back yard and beaned him with firewood.

n Two weeks ago, a 36-year-old drunken tourist had just been tossed out of a pub in Broome, Australia when he decided it would be an absolutely awesome idea to climb the fence of a wildlife compound and go for a ride on an 800-kilogram crocodile named Fatso. Dubbed Crocodile Dumb-dee by the Aussia media, the man is recovering in hospital.

n The same day, it was reported that a New Zealand man had just helped slaughter a pig when his own dog, apparently exacting revenge on behalf of the entire animal kingdom, picked up a rifle and shot the Kiwi in the butt.

OK, the dog didn't actually pick up the .22, just stepped on the trigger, but the owner still needed surgery to have the bullet removed.

The problem being that if the wildlife realize how foolish we are, they'll lose their fear altogether.

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