Good luck, Chuck

December 20, 2018

BELLE FOURCHE –– “Chuck the Buck” has become somewhat of a celebrity in Belle Fourche this week after finding himself trapped twice since Thursday and needing rescue from the Belle Fourche Police Department.

Code Enforcement and Animal Control Officer Clint Haffner told the Pioneer Monday that the Belle Fourche Police Department’s first interaction with Chuck was about one year ago when Officer Jason Huber found the white-tailed buck after he’d been hit by a vehicle near the golf course on the south end of town.

“And it was stunned a bit, so Jason grabs the deer by the antlers and drags it over to the side of the road,” Haffner explained. “Not too much longer after that, the deer popped up and took off.”

Then, on Thursday, the department got a call that the deer they believed to be the same one from last year, who had since been given the nickname “Chuck the Buck,” had gotten himself entangled in the net that covered the batting cage at the Black Hills Roundup Grounds Sports Complex. When Haffner responded, along with assistance from Huber and Chief Marlyn Pomrenke, they found the deer in dangerous condition.

“And he’s got (the netting) wrapped around his mouth, and wrapped all through his antlers,” Haffner said. “And you can see where he’s put up a struggle to try to get out.”

Right away, Haffner said, the officers were concerned for Chuck’s wellbeing because the rope was tightly wrapped around his mouth and he was struggling to breathe.

“So we start cutting it loose enough to where he can breathe, and then I kind of work my way up to the antlers,” Haffner said. “And I’m thinking about an exit plan the whole time because if you get gored by a deer or kicked, it can be kind of painful.”

According to the National Geographic website, adult male white-tailed deer can weigh from 100-300 pounds.

Haffner said the deer, which was kicking and struggling, must have been incredibly scared while trying to free himself from the thick netting that imprisoned him. He estimated Chuck was stuck in the net for a few hours that morning.

“I think if he would have been in that net another hour or so, he would have been dead,” Haffner said. “His tongue was hanging out of the side of his mouth with the net wrapped around his mouth … the tongue was dry; you could tell that he was dehydrated.”

When Chuck was released, he ran straight to the river for a drink, Haffner said.

Haffner theorized that Chuck was grazing near the baseball fields and got spooked by something and got wrapped up in the batting cage net. It took Haffner and Huber about 15-20 minutes to cut Chuck free.

Haffner was surprised by Thursday’s interaction with Chuck, as he’d never had an incident involving a deer tangled in netting.

Then, Monday morning, Haffner was at the police department working on some paperwork when a call came in that Chuck was again stuck. Haffner thought it had to be a joke.

“I’m thinking they’re teasing me a little bit,” he said about the resident who came to the police department to report the bad luck buck. Haffner said the community member had seen the video shared on the department’s Facebook page about Thursday’s interaction with Chuck and recognized him as the deer that was stuck in his yard.

“On my drive over there, I was thinking, ‘There’s just no way this can be the same deer,’” Haffner said. “We walked up on him, and sure enough, it’s the same deer. And I’m thinking, ‘Oh my, Chuck.’”

With remnants of the net still wrapped around an antler, Chuck had gotten himself stuck in a fence of a residence at the corner of Eighth Avenue and Lawrence Street.

“In Chuck’s defense, there is a double fence there, and he got caught in between the two of them,” Haffner said. “He jumped one fence and then got in between them and couldn’t get over the other one.”

The crew had to take a few bolts out of the fence to pull it back in an effort to give Chuck a clear exit path.

“Once we did that, we went around the other side … and cut the fence,” Haffner said.

When Haffner and Officer Jucole Jones worked to free Chuck Monday, the deer gave them less fight than the first time, and it took about five minutes to cut the fence and remaining netting.

“Today he was nice and calm and relaxed a little bit and kind of let us do our thing and get him out of the fence,” Haffner said. “He turned at us when we were done and looked at us and just kind of ran off.”

The deer seemed to recognize his rescuers.

“When we got close to him and got ahold of him, he got a little nervous. I said ’Chuck, you’re OK, it’s us,” Haffner said. “And ironically, after that, he calmed down.”

Haffner is unsure how the same deer would find himself again stuck within such a short time period and speculated that perhaps Chuck has some sort of visual impairment.

“He kind of acts like he’s a toddler learning to walk … it almost reminds me of a deer that just grew antlers and doesn’t know how to maneuver,” he said.

Although he didn’t expect to see Chuck a second time, he said he really doesn’t expect the deer to need his assistance a third time.

“I think we solved the problem,” he said.

Haffner explained that the closer he and Huber got to cutting Chuck free of the netting on Thursday, the more he struggled and was ready to get free.

“His will at that point was to get loose,” he said.

As a result, Haffner said he and Huber were unable to completely cut all the netting off of one section on Chuck’s antlers and that may have made him more susceptible to being entangled the second time.

“He had his head down, and it was stuck through the fence, so his antler was definitely caught and a little bit of that residual netting was definitely caught, too,” he said.

Haffner said they removed all the netting Monday.

“I’m hoping today that we solved the problem,” he said.

Or maybe, Haffner joked, Chuck has gotten himself worked up trying to become one of Santa’s reindeer.

“We need to keep freeing him in case Santa needs him,” Haffner laughed.

The department posted both videos on its Facebook page, and between the two, they have been viewed nearly 20,000 times and shared nearly 200 times as of Tuesday.

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