Man survives buck's charge near McNary Dam

By Jacques Von Lunen, Herald staff writerOctober 23, 2010 

UMATILLA -- Oregon wildlife officials are hoping to catch a buck that attacked a Hermiston man earlier this week.

Quinten Neal Hinds and his wife Sandi were out Thursday bird watching in the wildlife refuge just below McNary Dam on the Oregon side of the Columbia River.

Neal Hinds -- he goes by his middle name -- had gone ahead of Sandi on a trail. Around 2 p.m., he saw a buck bedded down in the grass. Hinds took a picture from about 40 feet, he said, then inched closer for a better shot.

Neal Hinds snapped a photo from about 8 feet away, then decided to back off. "I know (8 feet) is pushing it, but I thought it was within my comfort zone," he said.

It was out of the buck's comfort zone. The animal charged.

The buck gored Hinds in the right thigh, knocking him onto his back. Hinds scrambled up and the buck attacked again. This time, Hinds put up his arm, a maneuver he believes saved him from greater harm.

"If I hadn't used my forearm, he might have gored me in the chest or belly," he said.

His left arm tangled in the buck's antlers, the bird watcher grabbed an antler with his right arm, then freed his left. Holding onto both antlers, the 49-year-old man wrestled the young buck and managed to get up onto a nearby picnic table. He peeled off his jacket and swatted at the animal, which continued to charge.

Alerted by her husband's screams of, "I'm gored," Sandi already had called 911. Umatilla County firefighters arrived first, and one of them broke off some branches, handing one to Hinds, he said. Faced with several men swatting at it, the buck finally turned and disappeared into the brush.

Hinds was treated for minor injuries at Good Shepherd Medical Center in Hermiston and released late Thursday afternoon, said hospital spokesman Mark Ettesvold.

Hinds said he got stitches, but doesn't know how many. He's OK, though.

"I feel great," he said, noting that he's more worried about his medical bills than the puncture wounds.

The buck won't be charging anyone else, if wildlife officials find it.

Biologists from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife fanned out Thursday afternoon. They had a good idea which buck they were looking for, since they had Hinds' photos to go by.

Bullish bucks are not unusual this time of year, though they typically do not attack people.

From about mid-October to mid-December, bucks in this area are fighting over does, said Kevin Blakely, the ODFW watershed district manager responsible for the refuge.

"Rutting bucks become very aggressive with other deer and with anything around them," he said. "They even go to saplings and rake them."

Deer in an area such as the popular refuge right by a freeway exit become habituated to humans. Without their natural fear of humans, they can become dangerous in rutting season, Blakely said. "We've had incidents like this before at Wallowa Lake State Park," he said.

It was too crowded at the refuge by the dam Thursday afternoon for biologists to find the offending buck, Blakely said. But ODFW staff went back out Friday to look for the aggressive animal. When biologists find it, it will be killed and the meat donated to a local soup kitchen once it's been inspected, Blakely said.

The lesson in this is to keep a safe distance from wildlife, especially during the rut.

"Just don't approach deer this time of year," Blakely said. "The risk for injury is a lot greater."

Hinds, who is a member of a local birding club, won't let one buck keep him away from the wildlife area. "I've probably been there thousands of times," he said. "Of course I'm going back."

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