Thursday, June 16, 2016

A wild deer in the sitting room

Watching a group of wild deer cross the pond in front of the house is a form of magic. A wild deer in the house is a different matter. Something has to be done.
Eight does on the pond

By the late 1970s humans had acquired the ability to administer drugs to animal patients that were either dangerous or too far away to inject by hand. 
 Heavy metal darts, the kind seen on many a film of the time were well established. They are not precisely accurate enough for small targets. They can either miss, or cause severe damage. I had seen an X-ray of an unfortunate small dog that had been darted by a dog-catcher with one such projectile. The entire dart was buried deep inside its body. It died in seconds. The catcher and the owners must have been horrified. An alternative seems to be a good idea.
The new technique owed much to the men of hunter-gatherer societies in many countries. They had developed blow-gun systems that allowed them to shoot darts high into the forest canopy with deadly accuracy. Their darts had tips coated with paralyzing or poisoned compounds (working on the target, not the consumer) that brought down animals for use a food.
The basic design of those darts was converted into syringes that carried vaccines or other treatment drugs. 
Vaccination of a zoo lion. The blow dart can be seen in his hip.
Many zoo veterinarians and their patients benefited from the modernization of this ancient technique.
In chapter six book of my book From Porcupines to Polar Bears I describe my own struggles with the development of the blow dart and how I put it to use.
One problem that needed a quick solution was the noise emitted when blowing into the pipe. It is a noise that should at all costs be avoided when in polite company. Many readers will admit, under pressure, that in private the noise is associated with warming of the bed.
A simple mouthpiece solves the noise problem.
The solution was simple. A mouthpiece did double duty. It cut out the noise and ensured that all the effort in the puff propelled the dart with maximum power.
 On one occasion a call from the city police meant that I had to deal with a situation outside the zoo. The tool came into its own. An invasion of a home by a white-tailed deer needed urgent action.
In fall young males are often driven off by big bucks wanting to ensure that any females became their sole (or is that soul?) mates.
Under normal circumstances the youngsters head off into the countryside. But on this and other occasions the young deer seem to lose their minds. .
A buck had leapt through the picture window of a house with a fine view of the university buildings across the South Saskatchewan River. Two ladies of a certain age were enjoying a quiet cup of tea. Their afternoon view underwent a dramatic change.
The deer had no doubt come up from the bush-lined river bank. Naturally it panicked when it found itself in the unfamiliar environment of a city sitting room. Soon there were shards of bone china mixed with the shattered glass of the window. The ladies wisely retreated and made the call. When I arrived some fifteen minutes later the room lacked what I assumed was its former pristine state. The sofa was shredded. The carpet was decorated with a fresh stain of something dark wet and smelly. Several flowers lay scattered among greenery beside the coffee table.
The deer was standing still, no doubt bemused in unfamiliar surroundings. A drug-filled dart with its bright red woollen tail soon had the young buck down and out. Thence into the zoo truck and away to a wooded spot some fifteen kilometres from the city limits. Into the jugular vein went an antidote to the immobilizing mixture Thirty second later it was up and away, without even a look back of thanks.