D’oh, a Deer!

Malcolm discovers that encountering a backyard intruder is no stag party


When I’m working, I REALLY don’t like to be interrupted, unless it’s by something important — you know, like if I receive a text… or remember that there’s leftover pasta in the fridge… or if I suddenly need to Google whether Carly Simon ever revealed who the song “You’re So Vain” was written about. So only pressing, “Can’t wait” type of issues. But otherwise, I’m laser-focused on my work.

So you can imagine my annoyance this past Friday morning when my attention was diverted by a loud ruckus outside my house. Opening the back door and stepping into the yard, I heard a loud banging on the 8-foot-tall wooden fence dividing our yard from the neighbor’s. My first thought was that maybe a crew of workers was repairing a part of the fence, although that would have been odd since the neighbors’ house has been unoccupied for over a year, and fence repair would seem like a low priority for absentee homeowners.

My doubts about the fence repair hypothesis proved valid when, as I approached the fence to try to peek over into the neighbor’s yard, a fully grown adult male deer clambered over the top and landed no more than five feet away from me.

I’m not a deer mind-reader, so I can’t say for sure, but my best guess is that in that instant, the deer and I were pretty much *equally* surprised to see each other. After a moment of eye contact and mutual recognition that neither of us was entirely happy with this unexpected face-off, the deer dashed off while I calmly shouted, “Oh shit!” and flew back into the house, shutting the door tightly behind me.

No Suburban Jungle

I should note that in my suburban Northern California neighborhood, we experience very few such out-of-the-ordinary wildlife encounters. Mostly, we get birds and squirrels, and then perhaps the occasional rat scurrying in the attic. 

Other than that, I did once encounter two possums trapped in our compost bin. They must have been so delighted at their good fortune when they discovered this giant container filled with delicious table scraps. But then once they’d had their fill and decided to leave, I imagine them looking at one another and experiencing a simultaneous “Oh shit” moment.

The garbage bin area also occasionally attracts raccoons looking for a late-night snack. It’s always disconcerting to go outside expecting to scare off a raccoon with my mere presence only to have it give me an annoyed look as if to say, “Yes? Did you need something?” Then if I wave my arms and make enough noise the raccoon will watch me for a few seconds and then languidly make its way up a nearby tree as if to say “Just so you know, I was planning on climbing this tree all along and, if anything, you merely delayed me with all your histrionics.”

In this case, however, I realized that having a large wild buck roaming around the property was less than ideal, so I screwed up my courage and stepped back outside. At this point I heard a voice chime in unexpectedly from the other side of the fence to say, “There’s a deer in your yard.”

I later determined that this helpful warning came from a local Animal Control officer who was apparently tracking the deer from yard to yard. I’m still not sure what an appropriate response might have been, but all I could muster was a resigned, “Yes... yes there is.”

I was actually wrong about that because I soon determined that the deer had, in fact, exited the premises already. Earlier that morning I’d had the foresight to forget to close our back gate, allowing the deer to make a hasty departure into a parking lot behind our house.

The Buck Doesn’t Stop Here

I walked through the gate just in time to see the deer escape from a different animal control officer in hot pursuit by vaulting yet another 8-foot fence. The officer told me that they’d been trying to catch the deer for over an hour, and it likely had come down from the nearby hills in search of water. I suggested an alternate theory, which is that this deer was competing in some sort of underground, deer-only parkour competition, in which case the officer and I agreed he was probably kicking ass.

The impromptu episode of Backyard Wild Kingdom concluded, I turned my attention back to work. That is, until a couple of hours later when I received a text from my friend Satya, who lives about a mile-and-a-half away. He sent me a short video of an Animal Control officer in *his* backyard trying to capture — you guessed it — Carly Simon. No, wait, I meant to say “a deer.” This same deer had apparently traveled all the way from my house to his, hopping fence after fence from backyard to backyard.

So my new theory is the deer was probably exploring the hot Palo Alto real estate market but because of his cumbersome hooves could not just use Zillow. If so, I’d tell him to make an offer on the place next door. It’s a great location, he’s familiar with the area and he’s even already met one of the neighbors! 

One part of the fence does need some repairs, however.