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Deer causes outbreak of chronic calls

February 24, 2004|by TIM ROWLAND

Well, at least we know what sells in Western Maryland - sex and deer.

National press descended on the region twice last week, once to chronicle the release of a prostitution ring's "Black Book" in Frederick, Md., and also to follow the plight of a deer named Bucky that was taken in by a local family intent on saving its life.

The deer made out the better of the two.

At least it was more of a feel-good story. Staggering dazed and confused along a highway, it was saved and eventually released into the wild, just barely escaping the hands of the Maryland Department of Natural "Dick Dastardly" Resources, which wanted the animal killed and tested for something called "chronic wasting disease."

Oh, come on. Chronic wasting disease? That's the best they could do? The state could have at least said the deer might have contracted rabies, or mad deer disease, or whooping cough - or just about anything.

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But chronic wasting disease? That sounds like something a junior high kid would come up with for his note to the teacher after feigning illness to go to the ole fishing hole.

"Dear Ms. Fussbudget,

Please excuse Mitch from school yesterday. He had chronic wasting disease.

Thank you, Mitch's mom."

This story was so big that the "Today" show was here, the governor was notified and a news chopper was hovering overhead. A helicopter. When did we turn into L.A.? What, did they mistake Eastern Boulevard for Interstate 5?

This was a deer, for heaven's sake, not the Beltway sniper.

So the DNR wanted to kill the deer. By the end of the day, I wanted to kill the deer. What there was in people's thought processes that made them say to themselves, "Hey, a deer is in trouble; I better call Tim Rowland" I cannot even begin to say. But if I took one call on the topic, I took 30.

By the end of Thursday, I hated that deer like I have hated no non-office-holding creature in God's creation. One very kind gentleman offered to pay me $100 if I could facilitate the deer's freedom. This caused an awful moral dilemma, since by that time, I was privy to the information that Bucky, if that is his real name, already had been freed.

I got calls from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. I got calls from family members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and from the father of a man who lives in southeastern Virginia, where People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is headquartered.

I got phone calls from children. I got phone calls from people who run game preserves and from people who knew people who run game preserves. I got a call from someone who offered to transport the deer across state lines to West Virginia, where it could be kept nice and legal.

I got a call from a woman who was talking so fast I couldn't understand a word she said.

Finally I snapped.

"This is The Herald-freaking-Mail, not 'Field and Stream!'" I shouted. "I cannot save that deer and even if I could, I wouldn't. Besides, you don't know that deer. All you know is that it's fluffy. Maybe it has bad intent, you don't know. It could be cute, but obnoxious, like Paris Hilton."

By the end of the day, I was entirely beaten down. All I could rasp into the phone was a weak, "I'll see what I can do. Thank you for calling."

The only people who had a worse day than me had to be the DNR. They did their jobs and did everything by the book, and because of that, a lot of people wanted to string them up. Truth be told, it was one of those times when "regulations" might have best been overlooked, but if your boss is the state government, try explaining to an Annapolis bureaucrat that you felt the need to inject a little common sense into the situation.




Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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