NORTH SALT LAKE — A four-point buck sporting an arrow in its neck has endeared himself to a resident here who is worried about the animal's health.
"He's just a beautiful animal," said Bill Nicholls. "I was lucky to get those shots off" on Tuesday.
Of course those shots were from his camera, which Nicholls hastily grabbed after he saw "Bucky" once again wander within his view.
Nicholls said he first saw the animal about three weeks ago, which would have been about the same time an expanded Wasatch Front bow hunt for deer was just ending.
"There were some deer in the middle of the road that had come down to forage amongst the shrubbery and something just flashed in the light," Nicholls said. "I looked closer and it was this big, beautiful stag buck with four points on each side with an arrow in him. ... It's just below his ear, either in his neck or toward the jaw, and just barely in there. You can still see the shaft."
A resident of the area on the benches of North Salt Lake for 15 years now, Nicholls says he sees deer all the time.
"There are a lot of people who gripe about the deer eating the shrubbery, but the way I see it, we moved into their bedroom, they did not move into ours."
Nicholls said he can see blood and matting of the animal's hair, but "he looks healthy otherwise."
He does worry, however, that the shaft's prolonged insertion into the animal's body will cause it trouble.
"Eventually he could get infected, and it would kill him."
The last thing he wants, however, is for some agency to respond to put the animal down. He wants the animal to get help, but isn't sure what would be most effective.
Phil Douglass, with the northern region of the state Division of Wildlife Resources, said officers are aware of the situation, but likely will not intervene unless it is clear the animal is suffering.
"Even though it is unsightly, it doesn't seem to be affecting the animal."
Douglass said while the appearance of the deer may be distressing, wild animals are used to living in tough conditions.
"It is amazing how adaptive animals are to injuries — how they survive with a broken leg, or with three legs."
Douglass said he is aware of a three-legged elk that has been around for years at Hardware Ranch.
"To see that animal return for several seasons is a real testament to me as to the resiliency of animals."
The arrow-sporting buck is safe, too, in case it wanders to the north into Bountiful, where the agency previously had a controlled hunt to thin an overpopulation of deer. That has since ended and was only initiated upon a resident's individual request.
John Fox, a veteran animal cruelty investigator with the Humane Society of Utah, advises people — both who value the animal for its rack and meat and those who would want to save it — to simply leave it alone.
"If it is keeping good body weight, able to move around, no problems with its locomotion and able to eat — leave it alone."
Chasing the animal can stress it, and "darting" it can cause stress and death as well, Fox said.
"I'm holding my breath people will just let it be."