Center City deer dies during mad dash

Posted: May 02, 2014

SOMEWHERE in Philadelphia, there's one deer breaking bad news to another.

Hundreds of whitetails live all around us like ghosts, congregating in the city's parks and patches of woods, moving around silently via the trails and railways and slivers of undeveloped land. One young buck made a detour into Center City yesterday morning, though, starting somewhere around Point Breeze, according to one eyewitness.

"I thought it was a large dog but it was moving way too fast and had a gait unlike any dog I've seen. No one believed I saw a deer!" said Michael Williams, who spotted the deer on Broad Street near Washington Avenue.

And just like Bambi's mom, this deer's run ended badly. After leaping onto and off the PATCO tracks on the Ben Franklin Bridge, he jumped onto the roadway and got hit by a car. The driver thought he hit a box and didn't stop, officials said.

Deer, like us, are motivated by simple things: food, sex, a comfortable place to sleep. They fear almost everything. This deer didn't have antlers, witnesses said, although at this time of year, bucks are just starting to regrow new, velvet-covered racks. Mating season is months away.

The deer may have been a yearling, driven off by its mother to find its own place in the world. It may have been lost in breakfast too, head down for hours, chewing the cud and not really paying attention, one wildlife officer suggested.

Then the sun comes up, and the buck's at 21st and Dickinson streets.

"It's probably like 'Holy smokes, where am I?' " said Jerry Czech, a wildlife conservation officer with the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Czech said the deer probably panicked, and panicked some more, as its dainty hooves slipped and slid past high-rises and garbage trucks. Bewildered Twitter users spotted the deer several times in Center City before it delayed PATCO commutes.

"That's the first time that's happened," said Mike DiBerardinis, deputy mayor for environmental and community resources.

The deer might have been better off jumping off the bridge. In 2012, a buck was photographed swimming across the Delaware River to Philadelphia, then back to Gloucester City, Camden County. Czech said they're naturals in the water.

He saw one stuck in the mud by Pier 5 near the bridge this winter.

"The tide came in and loosened the mud," he said. "Then it swam away in the dark toward New Jersey."


On Twitter: @JasonNark

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