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Doe attacks three students at SIUC

CARBONDALE - While most experts say a deer's natural defense mechanism is "flight" rather than "fight," a doe wandering through Thompson Woods on the Southern Illinois University Carbondale campus Tuesday bucked instincts and attacked three unsuspecting people.

Ron Gillette, a 57-year-old student of economics and foreign language international trade, was one of the victims to experience the wrath of a doe apparently trying to protect two fawns.

Gillette said he was walking toward Morris Library, rounding the north side of the building around 3 p.m. Tuesday, when he noticed two fawns nestled in the wooded brush near the concrete pathway.

Gillette also noticed what he gauged to be a 110-pound doe eyeing him from farther back in the woods. He said he admired the baby deer for a few moments, then began walking away. But, he added, he kept watching the mother.

"I'm a bow hunter," Gillette said. "And I know enough about wild animals to know you keep your eyes on them."

Gillette said he was still surprised when the doe burst through the brush, onto the walkway and reared up at him, intending to strike him down with her sharp hoofs.

More than 20 years of deer hunting didn't quite prepare Gillette for hand-to-hand combat with one, but he was quick on his feet, ducking the doe's blows and returning with a sharp uppercut to the doe's chin.

The deer attacked once more. Gillette repeated his pattern, delivering another punch to the doe's head.

This time, he said, the deer backed off but continued to stare Gillette down as he cautiously made his way into the library.

"You know," Gillette mused, "the goal of almost every man is to have a female charge at him; you just don't appreciate it when the female is a deer."

SIUC police report that, after the deer's altercation with Gillette, it attacked two other unidentified students along Thompson Woods paths between Faner Hall and Morris Library. One student was treated at SIUC Student Health Services, the other at Memorial Hospital of Carbondale.

Sgt. Harold Tucker said officers have taped off the inner paths of the woods to pedestrians in hope of avoiding any more conflicts with the doe. The last sighting Tuesday evening had the deer deep into the forested area, well away from the paths, Tucker said.

He said the incident was an unfortunate but freak occurrence.

"(The doe) was just so close to the population she felt threatened and acted upon it," Tucker said. "The problem is people don't realize if you see fawns you're not just dealing with a deer, you're dealing with a threatened doe."

Tucker said officials planned to leave the woods cordoned off to people, giving the doe and her fawns time to move unobstructed to a safer location.

Meanwhile, Gillette has a few scrapes on his hands, a cracked watch face and a whopper tale to tell friends from his encounter, but he doesn't blame the mother deer for trying to protect her young.
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