Harlem white-tailed deer dies while waiting for transport

HARLEM, New York (WABC) -- A white-tailed deer that drew crowds in Jackie Robinson Park in Harlem and sparked a battle between state and city officials over whether it should be euthanized died Friday while awaiting transport upstate.

The animal wandered into the city-run Polo Grounds Towers apartment complex two weeks ago and was set to be put down before state officials intervened. City officials had said euthanizing the deer was "the only humane and safe recourse."

But around noontime, the New York City Parks Department issued a statement that the animal would be spared and transported upstate.

"The state (Department of Environmental Conservation) has seen fit in this instance to transport the deer," the statement read. "Although survival rates for relocated deer are low and transport is a great stressor, DEC is the regulatory body here."

A spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio added that "the state is trying to transport it safely upstate. This is inconsistent with experts and state DEC policy, but we will try and help."

Unfortunately, the deer died before the move.

"While under the stress of captivity and while awaiting potential transport upstate by state DEC, the Harlem deer has died," the mayor's spokesperson said in a statement.

The deer had been sedated since being caught early Thursday morning and was kept outside, though it's unclear if the prolonged sedation and cold weather were contributing factors in its death.

On his radio show Friday morning, de Blasio explained to a listener that it would have been "inhumane in its own right" to relocate the deer and that the city was opting for a "quick and merciful death" vs. a "long and painful process."

"A deer does not belong in the middle of an urban neighborhood," he said. "The deer could not be left where they are. It could not be left in the streets of Harlem. I'm sorry. That is just absolutely unacceptable and dangerous."

Sarah Aucion, chief of wildlife and education for the city's parks department, said moving the deer would "likely (cause) the animal a great deal of suffering and would have been inhumane on many levels. Disorientation, trauma, injury and death are all possible results of relocating, and relocated deer have very low long-term survival rates."

She said the deer appeared to be used to humans and would likely try to connect with them in the future, which may have led to it getting hit by a car.

"These decisions are never easy, and we do not take this lightly at all," she said. "But considering all of these factors, we think this is the best, safest and most humane course of action."
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