In an effort to protect motorists along a portion of U.S. Highway 59, officials with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources last week reportedly had to shoot a mule deer that exhibited “strange behavior."
The mule deer, a roughly 1-year-old buck, was shot north of Thief River Falls by an official with the state DNR after at least one motorist had to “physically shoo the buck off the road,” the Bemidji Pioneer reported, noting the animal did not appear to show any fear of humans and “didn’t so much as flinch” even when conservation officers were within 30 yards of the buck.
“At that point, it becomes a liability,” Doug Franke, an area wildlife manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Thief River Falls, told the publication.
“We determined for safety reasons we would take a look at it again and determine if it needed to be euthanized for safety reasons,” he added.
While the mule deer appeared to be in good health physically, “its cognitive health was suspicious,” Franke said, while conservation officer Tony Elwell said the animal “wasn’t behaving like a deer should.”
“It just didn’t seem like it was all there if you want to call it that,” Franke added.
After the buck was shot and killed, its body was taken to a DNR lab in Forest Lake. Samples of the animal’s lymph nodes were taken to be tested for chronic wasting disease — “a fatal, neurological illness occurring in North American cervids (members of the deer family), including white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, and moose,” according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Officials with the Minnesota DNR said it's possible the disease may have caused the mule deer’s strange behavior. The buck also could have suffered from a brain worm, officials said, adding they removed its brain for testing as well.
The test results are not yet available.
Officials said there were no markings or ear tags on the buck which would imply it was captive.
Mule deer are not typically found in northwest Minnesota, according to the Bemidji Pioneer.