CINCINNATI — The calls started last week at the Anderson Township Family Pet Center.
"How do you get a pumpkin off a deer's head?"
Eastside Cincinnati neighbors began commenting on social media Wednesday about a deer sporting a child's bright orange Halloween jack-o'-lantern on its head. The deer was seen in a number of neighborhoods in Anderson Township and was spotted several times in Guardian Angels Cemetery.
The pumpkin would not come off because its strap was lodged around the back of the deer's head, stuck on the nubs of his antlers. The deer was unable to eat or drink.
Daryl Meyerrenke, owner of the pet center, said people began calling to ask how they could help, and residents started to brainstorm online to figure out how to help the animal.
On Sunday, Anderson Township residents Dave and Wendy Saylor set up a tracking thread for the deer's location. A group set out to catch and free the deer from the plastic pumpkin. Meyerrenke, who has wildlife handling experience, headed up the expedition.
The deer was seen in the area of Paddison Road at around 3 p.m.
By 4 p.m., the deer hunters were on the trail and into the woods. The group included the Saylors; Staci Grant from Peppermint Pig Rescue; her husband, Joe, and daughter Hallie; Anderson Township residents Dan Earls and Suzie Peck, who the deer frequently visits at their home, a haven for wildlife; Ethan and Kala O'Brien; and Nick Barker and Meyerrenke's son Aaron. Second Chance Wildlife Rescue also pitched in, with Bonnie Morrison bringing a catch pole, ropes, and expertise to the expedition.
Meyerrenke said the deer, while tired, still had the energy to evade neighbors as they trailed him through the woods.
"He drove through a 10-foot thicket of bamboo without a machete," he said. "He was weakened and slow but he was still able to get away."
He said approaching a deer can be dangerous, because of the animal's sharp hooves. "We talked about keeping the deer's feet on the ground."
Eventually, just before sunset, the group was able to trap the deer by enclosing it against a fence in a semicircle. As the deer attempted to bolt, Daryl's son Aaron, who grew up around animals thanks to his dad's prior profession as a wildlife officer, was able to get a headlock on the deer and pulled the pumpkin off.
"There was a lot of cheering at that point," said Morrison, who said she is licensed by the state to give short-term care to deer.
The deer was so hungry it ran off about 30 feet to the nearest creek and started drinking and grazing. "It was a happy ending."