2 young men help deer in distress in Virgin River

ST. GEORGE – Two young men went above and beyond to ease the suffering of a deer in distress in the Virgin River near Mall Drive Bridge in St. George Thursday.

(L-R) Ethan and Braxen Glines with the deer they pulled from the Virgin River, St. George, Utah, October 2015 | Photo by Tiffany Defa, St. George News
(L-R) Ethan and Braxen Glines with the deer they pulled from the Virgin River, St. George, Utah, October 2015 | Photo by Tiffany Defa, St. George News

Brothers Braxen and Ethan Glines came across the deer in the river near the Mall Drive Bridge adjacent to the bike path. The doe appeared to be drowning and they called the St. George Communications Center for assistance. Division of Wildlife Resources Conservation Officer Brian Shearer in Cedar City contacted the brothers and suggested they try to pull the deer to side of the river until he could get there.

“I told ‘em I was coming down and ‘I’m worried about you guys getting cold,'” Shearer said on Friday, relating the incident.

The Glines brothers said they had seen the deer in the area for at least a couple of days prior. On this sighting, she was struggling in the river and they decided to help.

“We just found her drowning in the river today,” Braxen Glines said, “and decided to run out and get her out of the water and get warm.”

The boys managed to get the deer out of the river current and onto a small island in the middle of the river.

Shearer arrived at the scene just before dark, he said. All the while the Glines brothers stayed with the injured deer.

“The cool thing is these kids were concerned about it enough that they stayed in that cold water for at least 40-50 minutes for me to get here,” Shearer said at the scene Thursday.

Unfortunately, it appeared there wasn’t much that could be done for the deer due to a broken leg and she would have to be put down, Shearer said.

“This one had a compound,” Shearer said on Friday. “You know what I mean by compound? The bone was sticking out; the bone fractured and was sticking out.”

After making an assessment, Shearer destroyed the deer.

Even if they let the deer be and eventually hobble away on three legs, Shearer said, he expected she would have laid down under a tree and died. Left in the river, she would have drowned, he said.

“Deer are so high strung,” Shearer said Friday, explaining his assessment. “If they get caught in a fence, they’ll charge and a lot of times they’ll dislocate their leg. If you can get close to them, they’re in really bad shape … so what I end up doing (is) I look at the animal. If it was walking around limping, I’d let it go, but when it’s hurt so bad ….”

When the Division of Wildlife Resources officers are called to assess an injured animal, Shearer said, they have to make a judgment call. They take into account public safety; for example, will the animal end up back in traffic? They consider the survivability of the animal; can it recover from its injuries? And will it survive if reintroduced into the wild?

The odds of survival for herd animals is low when they are isolated from their group. Deer in particular, Shearer said, have a very maternal society. You can see grandmothers and moms with their young in the herds for years and it takes a long time to teach the young to jump fences and survive.  So deer, he said, even if rehabilitated from an injury, cannot just be released into the wild in isolation.

Other species, like raptors or fish for example, are genetically imprinted to survive, Shearer said, and can be released anywhere.

While it is natural to look at the animal as an individual, the state looks at the population and manages it in various ways including the deer hunt currently open in Utah.

We manage them as a population to keep them going,” Shearer said. “We keep that deer population healthy and going from year to year and part of that is we have harvest, and harvest deer every year. People just want to look at them as an individual, we have to look at them as a population.”

Although the prospects of rehabilitation for this particular deer were grim, Shearer noted that the cost of rehabilitating injured animals in these kinds of cases would be prohibitive to the state – particularly those in populations the state is managing.

DWR gets calls related to injured animals a couple of times a week, Shearer said Thursday, be they racoons, skunks or deer.

The best thing to do if you see a wild animal in distress is to call the local field office of the Division of Wildlife Resources or just call 911 and a dispatcher will assist in connecting you to the right person. As a rule, it’s not a good idea to approach the animal as many will cause themselves further harm or could harm you. When an animal is approachable it is often a sign that their suffering is severe.

In the practical scheme of things, deer are a source of meat and Shearer said he will assess an animal that has been destroyed to see if the meat is viable. In this instance, he said, he expects to donate the meat to the Glines family.

St. George News Reporter Mori Kessler contributed to the writing of this report, representative Paul Ford contributed to the report from the incident location Thursday.

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Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.


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  • beacon October 23, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    This is a great story. It’s sad that the deer did not survive but big kudos to these two heads up young men who cared enough to do something and to our DWR personnel who are always able to be there when needed in these situations.

  • Billy Madison October 23, 2015 at 9:25 pm

    I’m pretty sure that this deer had Obambi-care insurance which wouldn’t have paid anything but would have got it into the system for free medical care for life.

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