By Dominik Lobkowicz
A woman was knocked down and injured by a deer near these apples trees at the Whaleback Shell Midden in Damariscotta Jan. 16. (D. Lobkowicz photo)
While walking her dogs at the Whaleback Shell Midden, a Damariscotta woman was knocked down by a buck she believes was spooked by her lab, Toby. (D. Lobkowicz photo)
A Damariscotta woman sustained injuries to her back after a deer her dog spooked ran into her and knocked her to the ground the morning of Jan. 16.
Kyle McKinney said she was walking her two dogs at the Whaleback Shell Midden across from Great Salt Bay Community School at about 9:30 a.m. Jan. 16. McKinney walks her dogs at the state historic site nearly every day, sometimes twice daily.
The spot is popular for people to walk their dogs, she said. “It’s just peaceful and enjoyable; I’ve been going there forever.”
McKinney was walking in nearly knee-deep snow by a stand of apple trees, facing downhill toward the Damariscotta River when her lab, Toby, took off running to her left.
Soon thereafter, as she stepped away from a tree she was near, McKinney was struck in her right shoulder and knocked to the ground.
“All I remember is being nudged really quickly and sharply to my left, and it just kept going. It took me a minute to realize it was a deer that had hit me,” McKinney said. The event happened fast – she didn’t even hear the deer running – but McKinney believes it was a buck that hit her because she saw its antlers.
McKinney also believes Toby spooked the deer and chased it out of the trees.
“After I was hit and was down, he [Toby] went past me too and then came back and licked my face,” she said.
McKinney wonders if the deer didn’t see her before she stepped away from the tree, or if it was so spooked by Toby it didn’t care she was in the way.
“It was crazy. Who would think? You hit them with your car but they don’t usually knock you over,” McKinney said.
For Mike Witte, a state licensed animal damage control agent for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and wildlife biologist, McKinney’s encounter with the deer is a first.
“I’ve never in my 25 years of doing what I do, never heard of that,” Witte said.
Witte, who said he’s had no calls about aggressive deer, believes the deer running into McKinney was likely an accident or coincidence, and the deer was likely focused on the dog.
“Very rarely, moose, yeah, they’ll come after you, especially during certain times of year, but deer just don’t do that,” Witte said. Deer usually won’t even stand their ground against a dog, and flight is their primary defense mechanism, he said.
Witte said he has had deer run within six feet of him in the woods because they were spooked or just hadn’t smelled him yet.
Bedded deer are often so well camouflaged people don’t see them, Witte said, and “they’ll lay still til the last minute. They come ripping up out of those beds to the point where they’ll scare you.”
McKinney thought she was uninjured following the encounter, and went to work the overnight shift at Mobius that night and again on Saturday, Jan. 17.
“I started to notice a little a strain, a little bit of pain, but not bad” on Saturday, but “by Sunday morning I could barely walk when I left work,” she said.
McKinney went to LincolnHealth – Miles Campus to get checked out and, after x-rays and an ultrasound, was diagnosed with lumbar strain severe enough to keep her out of work until next Saturday. Her shoulder is also sore, and though it was “a little purplish,” the color has almost gone away, she said.
“It’s kind of like a car crash, it creeped up on me I guess, you know, the pain,” she said.
After she heals up, McKinney plans to keep walking her dogs down at the shell midden.
“I think I’ll be looking a little more next time,” she said.