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Wild deer surprises diners at Albany restaurant

A confused doe is fatally injured when it breaks through the window of a Pizza Hut

An adult female deer was injured Monday evening when it jumped through a plate glass window at the Pizza Hut on East Oglethorpe Boulevard. The animal was taken from the premises by agents of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and later died. (Photo: Georgia Department of Natural Resources)

An adult female deer was injured Monday evening when it jumped through a plate glass window at the Pizza Hut on East Oglethorpe Boulevard. The animal was taken from the premises by agents of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and later died. (Photo: Georgia Department of Natural Resources)

ALBANY — It wasn’t listed on the menu, but diners were surprised Monday by fresh wild deer on the hoof at the Pizza Hut restaurant on East Oglethorpe Boulevard.

Officials say that officers of the Albany Police Department, as well as agents of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, were called around 7:30 p.m. to deal with a confused adult doe that had jumped through a heavy plate glass window and entered the establishment, even wandering around the food preparation area.

Bryan Vickery, field supervisor with the game management division of the Georgia DNR, said that while it’s difficult to know just why an animal would make such a rash misjudgment, reasons might include having been struck by a car, chased by dog that’s off its leash, or any number of upsetting experiences. And sometimes the animals just don’t see things in the same way humans do.

“It’s not uncommon for a deer to see a dark plate glass as an area he can enter,” Vickery said, “or it could see its own reflection and thinks it’s another deer.”

When Vickery and two other agents of the DNR arrived at Pizza Hut, they discovered the deer had suffered severe wounds from the broken glass, including a deep gash on its left side, Vickery said, and had been bleeding. Typically, a misplaced animal will be subdued with a tranquilizer dart fired by a special rifle, but because of the proximity of the agents to the deer, a blowgun was used, Vickery said.

“We were less than four feet from her,” Vickery said, “and at that distance, a regular dart gun would have acted more as a weapon.”

Vickery said the agents involved had attended safe capture workshops and were aware of proper animal removal, but the Pizza Hut incident was the first opportunity to utilize the “breath-operated” gun. Because of the animal’s level of anxiety and its severe blood loss, the doe succumbed to sedation “very soon” after being struck with the dart, Vickery said.

“We hit her with the dart at 8:30 p.m.,” Vickery said. “By 8:32 p.m., she was out.”

Pizza Hut closed for the the evening as the injured deer was loaded onto the back of a pickup truck. Despite precautions taken, somewhere between the restaurant and the regional office of the DNR on Newton Road, the animal died, Vickery said.

The possible bright spot in the whole affair, Vickery said, was that circumstances provided a perfect random subject for the DNR’s ongoing tests for Chronic Wasting Disease in Deer, a fatal disorder. According to Vickery, CWD is found primarily in cattle, but is sometimes seen in wild whitetail deer in western states. Although CWD has not been found in Georgia deer, the DNR is vigilant in its testing program, Vickery says.

According to Vickery, the injured deer was “perfect” because it was a random animal which exhibited what could have been odd or abnormal behavior. Deer taken by hunters are not considered “random,” Vickery said, because hunters tend to select the heaviest, healthiest animals to shoot, and those animals don’t demonstrate wasting or abnormal behavior.