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From the Field: Saving Jughead, Wildlife response team

Injured deer; staff photo

It all started with a phone call over the weekend this past January. There was a small deer—most likely a button buck—roaming the Bel Air neighborhood of Glenwood with a clear plastic jug stuck on its head.

Matt Adams, Samantha Hopkins and I met the homeowner who had spotted the deer that became known across the state as Jughead. We started searching and spotted him that very morning, though we were unable to capture him.

Maryland has a large network of volunteer rehabilitators who take care of injured, orphaned or sick wildlife until they can be released safely back into the wild. Signs a creature could need help include evidence of bleeding, an apparent broken limb or audible distress calls over a prolonged period of time. Remember, even with the best intentions, interfering with wildlife may do more harm than good. Before approaching in aid, evaluate the situation and report it by calling 877-463-6497.

Several attempts were made over the next few days to get close enough to tranquilize him but the combination of high winds and the animal’s mobility and awareness made those attempts fruitless.

Tracking his movements was made easier by the community’s Facebook page, where members had posted updates as well as our team’s contact information. Their texts and phone calls played a huge role in informing us of Jughead’s whereabouts.

After many sightings occurred throughout the week, we identified two distinct areas as likely spots to capture the animal. We set up portable tree stands Saturday morning and took our places in the evening. Unfortunately, he did not show up in either one.

Sunrise Sunday found Sam and myself again sitting in the stands, waiting. I spotted the buck but was unsuccessful in tranquilizing him. Fellow staffer Rick Walls joined Sam in the afternoon. Sightings diminished into nothing, and back to the stands they went.

Bennet, Hopkins, Adams; staff photo

When I returned , I spotted him bedded down near a small pond. One thing was different though. The jug was now completely covering his head; the ears were now inside. Realizing this would make it difficult for him to pinpoint direction of sound, we decided to attempt another tranquilizer shot. Rick stayed on stand since he was close by, and Sam moved to a location nearby to cut off an escape route. I snuck up the creek.

Jughead was on his feet by this time and obviously knew something was up, but as hoped, he didn’t know where the threat was coming from. Finally, I was able to successfully deliver a dart full of immobilizing drugs to his hindquarter. He walked about 20 yards and quickly became still.

We removed the plastic container using a pair of pruning shears and administered the reversal drug once enough time had passed. The deer recovered quickly and began eating almost immediately, having gone more than a week without food or water.

We watched for more than an hour as he got his bearings. Once it became apparent Jughead was regaining his balance, we watched him wander off into the darkness.

Article by Jim Bennett—central region wildlife manager.
Appears in Vol. 20, No. 3 of the Maryland Natural Resource magazine, summer 2017.