WINTHROP — A Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife check station set up in Winthrop to gather information from hunters last weekend drew a couple of unintended visitors: a doe and her fawn.
Biologists Scott Fitkin and Jeff Heinlen were manning the station when the doe walked right up to Fitkin and stood inches away, as if waiting for a handout. Her fawn stood not far behind her.
Fitkin kept his arms crossed while Heinlen snapped a photo. But they didn’t feed the bold mamma, or her baby.
“It’s amusing, and the picture has gotten a lot of attention, but this is not the way we want deer to be acting,” said Wildlife spokeswoman Madonna Leurs.
That’s because feeding deer makes them more dependent on people, and less able to fend for themselves. And even if they look cute, they’re wild animals and can be dangerous.
“They’re not as cute to residents as they are to visitors,” said Winthrop Mayor Dave Acheson. They get in your garden, and destroy your ornamentals.
Still, it’s common to see deer in town. Most residents don’t think anything of it anymore.
That hasn’t always been the case. But a segment of the mule deer population that used to come through town on their way to and from their winter ranges have become residents, he said.
Acheson said the town has an ordinance against feeding them. But some people still do.
“I think it’s one of those things you just kind of live with,” he said.
Leurs guessed that the doe who approached Fitkin outside the Winthrop Barn was probably hand fed.
She said some towns, like Republic in nearby Ferry County, have major problems with deer that became residents.
“That’s not what we want to be doing with wildlife of any kind — habituating them to people,” she added.
In addition to the deer, Fitkin and Heinlen had 107 hunters stop by their voluntary check station over the two days. Thirty of them reported taking a buck.
The numbers suggest that fewer hunters were out last weekend compared to most opening weekends for general firearms, but more of them were successful in bagging a buck. So far, hunters were also killing more older bucks, the biologists reported. Hunting season continues through Sunday, and the check station at the Winthrop Barn reopens next weekend.