My neighborhood in the Waldo area of Kansas City has houses with character, fun people and a growing array of lively businesses. It’s not known for green space, however. We have relatively small yards, with backyard fences. There are parks in the vicinity, but they are blocks away.
I tell you this to set the scene for a recent predawn encounter. I was gathering my gear to head for an early-morning trip to the gym when I noticed movement out of the front window.
“That is a really big dog,” I thought, and looked for its walker.
There was no dog walker. And on closer examination, there was no dog. I was looking at a full-grown deer, strolling placidly up the sidewalk.
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I opened the front door to get a better look. The deer stopped beneath a streetlight and looked at me. We watched each other for a minute in the stillness, neither of us moving, and then she swung her head forward and nonchalantly continued down the sidewalk.
Extraordinary. I’ve heard stories of deer wandering into suburban yards; apparently they can make outright nuisances of themselves, ruining gardens and trampling lawns. But a deer sighting in Waldo is almost unheard of.
Or so I thought.
I made a couple of phone calls and found out the person to talk to about misplaced deer is Joe DeBold, urban wildlife biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation.
“No surprise,” he said, when I related my story.
The first three weeks of November in these parts are “the rut,” or mating season, for deer, DeBold said. That means there’s a lot of chasing and moving around going on.
So my deer, as I think of her, was probably taking a solitary walk to escape a pesky suitor, I figured. Or something like that.
“But where did she come from?” I asked.
“She could have come from ... it’s hard to say,” DeBold said.
Deer, he said, will congregate wherever green space is available. They adapt quickly to places like urban parks, and if things don’t work out they’ll move to another location.
In other words, they can take care of themselves.
“If I heard that a deer was spotted, say, in front of Commerce Bank downtown, I wouldn’t worry about that at all,” DeBold said.
Seriously? Because I was very worried about my deer in Waldo, and what might happen to her if she wandered onto Wornall Road or one of the busier streets in the vicinity. Downtown Kansas City would seem to be a hostile environment for a white-tailed deer.
“Being urban deer, they’re not going to be freaked out like a deer that hasn’t seen traffic or people before,” DeBold said.
So, if there is a moral to this story, maybe it’s that we worry too much — about deer and about people, too. Creatures of all sorts are tougher and more adaptable than we think. That’s something to remember the next time your helicopter parenting instinct goes into overdrive.
There’s no need to dial 911 if you spot a deer wandering around Westport or somewhere, DeBold said. Trying to corral it would be more dangerous than leaving it alone.
What should we do? “Appreciate it,” DeBold said. “Because it’s pretty awesome that a deer can be in an urban area and we can co-exist with the deer.”
Yes it is.
My encounter with an urban deer made my day. That morning, I watched her for as long as I could. She strolled to the end of the block and then I lost sight of her at the intersection.
I wish her plenty of green space and a long and interesting life.