On their first day back from Christmas vacation, the students at Rogers elementary had a close encounter with a large, four-point deer that had wandered on to the school’s field.
Cleverly nicknamed Buck Rogers by students, the listless animal was first seen Tuesday morning and looked to be either injured or severely ill.
“The pound came out, assessed him and told us it looked like he has a possibility of survival so they didn’t want to do anything at that point,” said school principal Maryanne Trofimuk. “At the end of the day, we called the conservation officers, and they said to leave him overnight to see what happens.”
For 24 hours the animal barely moved. He repositioned himself, bobbed his head up and down, and tried repeatedly to get up.
Just after 9 a.m. on Wednesday, while the students were in class, the Conservation Officer Service came and “brought him to a place where he can be better taken care of,” Trofimuk said.
The school took all the precautions it could, she says. All blinds and drapes were closed when the animal was euthanized using a .22-calibre rifle. Students were also kept far away from the animal.
Any inquisitive student was told only that the animal had been moved.
“There are obviously sensitivities around children, and nobody wants to have them witness putting an animal down,” said Conservation Officer Peter Pauwels. “It’s tricky how you do it, making sure you’re not offending anybody or causing anybody to be stressed out by what you’ve done.”
Tranquilization was not an option, given the animal’s health.
Pound officer Susan Ryan says deer calls are still a large part of the job, but this was an unusual situation.
There were no apparent injuries to the deer, she said, though it was quite malnourished and had likely contracted some sort of illness.
Trofimuk said the decision was made to remove the animal during school hours, rather than after school, because it would be unfair to leave it writhing for several more hours.
School staff were also better able to control where the students were while school was in session.
“The conservation officers and (pound) officers really understood the sensitivity of the issue with the students,” said Greater Victoria school district superintendent John Gaiptman. “Those students who did ask about the deer that’s been hanging around the school, we told them conservation officers did what they had to do to move the deer away so they could play on the field again.”