By L. Carol Ritchie, Mercury Editor
Imagine my surprise the other evening when I looked out my window and saw two police cars blocking traffic on my street.
My surprise turned to alarm when one officer pulled a rifle out of his squad car.
It was only their unruffled demeanor that kept me from panicking when they started for the steps to my house. Yeesh, what could we have done wrong?! Is it the county stickers on the cars? Did someone report our trash bin out too long? Could a burglar be loose in the neighborhood?
It was a wounded deer, one officer told me when I stepped outside. Hit on Wilson Blvd., it ran the six or seven houses up my street to shelter between yards.
The officers were there to put it out of its misery.
“I have no problem with shooting bad guys,” said one officer, who appeared to be not far out of her twenties. “I had to call my captain. No problem with bad guys. Deer? I can’t shoot a deer.”
I ran inside to distract my 8-year-old – who am I fooling? I had to distract myself – while they did their dreadful task. After a muffled bang, which my busy daughter failed to notice, I went outside.
Turns out the deer found a spot in the bushes between my house and a neighbor’s, right outside the room where we were playing a moment before. I’ve never seen a deer on my street in the 18 years we’ve lived here. Lots of animals have climbed the 18-steps-worth of elevation from street to house level – rabbits, foxes, possums – but never deer.
Police have to perform this morbid duty fairly often, said spokeswoman Det. Crystal Nosal. Animal control workers don’t carry weapons; they do come after to collect the corpses.
While no one has counted the deer population in Arlington, they’ve been observed in almost every forested park in the county, according to a report by the Department of Parks and Recreation. Deer killed on roadways in Arlington rose from 11 in 2005 to 39 in 2007.
As I chatted with the young officer in the front yard, her jittery colleague returned from the side. Although he was older, he was clearly shaken, and I noticed he looked everywhere but in my eyes.
“Never had to do that before,” was all he had to say.