MORGAN -- Test results on a mule deer that attacked a Weber River angler inside city limits Feb. 2 showed the aggressive deer was not diseased, a Utah Division of Wildlife Resources spokesman said.
Instead, this territorial deer was a pet with no fear of people, said Phil Douglass, DWR spokesman. The buck was born in 2006 and raised in captivity by a Morgan man who had witnessed its mother killed in a vehicle collision.
Keeping wildlife without a permit is normally a class B misdemeanor with a sentence of up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The DWR analyzed the buck's brain and lymph nodes to determine whether it was infected with chronic wasting disease, said Leslie McFarlane, DWR wildlife biologist. The test results were released last week.
Despite the unusual attack, the buck showed no signs of CWD, which is the equivalent of mad cow in livestock. The test results would normally have been available sooner, but the analysis was delayed because of medical equipment failure, Douglass said.
The attacked angler, Kevin Bybee, of North Ogden, first saw the deer when he was fly fishing around 2:30 p.m. on the Weber River at the end of Young Street near Morgan High School. He said the deer made him uneasy, because it came closer as he was wading in the river.
"I wasn't feeling threatened," he said during a telephone interview. "I just didn't feel comfortable."
Bybee talked to two men who petted the deer and took pictures of it, then a man and his son who commented on how tame the animal was. The buck came over and stood next to Bybee, who touched its head with his right hand while holding the fly rod in his left.
Then the buck made a noise "like a high-pitched whistle," Bybee said, rose up on its hind legs and began pounding on his back with its front hooves. He later realized the deer knocked off his watch and gave him a black eye.
"I turned my back to it, and waded into the water to protect my pole," he said.
Bybee finally threw down his expensive Loomis GLX 9-foot fly rod when the buck started "pawing at me like crazy," so he grabbed the mule deer by the head and neck, threw the buck into the river and went down with it. The deer got up before he did, Bybee said, and attacked again, so he threw the deer into the river a second time.
Bybee ran for the bank, shouting for help and climbed a tree for a protection. He was only a few feet off the ground, Bybee said, and when the buck came up to the tree, he had to kick the deer away with his foot.
"I was trying to get it to leave, but it wouldn't," he said. "It just stayed there."
Bybee reached into his waders for his cellphone and called a relative, who called David Christiansen, of Morgan, who got his son. Bybee also called his friend, Larry Wiggill, who also lives in Morgan. They called the Morgan County Sheriff's Office, which dispatched Deputy Chris Peay and an unnamed partner to the scene. They arrived shortly after Christiansen and his son, who brought a shovel and a golf club to defend Bybee from the deer, and a ladder because they didn't know how far up Bybee had to climb the tree.
The buck left the tree when the five men plus an ambulance crew arrived, and stood 10 to 15 feet away from the group, Bybee said.
"The deer was moving toward them," he said. "I could only assume it had the same plans for them as it had for me. Then the deer tried to take on the guy with the shovel."
Peay shot the buck twice with his service weapon, and his partner shot it twice more with a rifle before the animal finally died.
"You would never think any of this would happen, but it did," Bybee said.
This kind of attack is not unheard of, Douglass said. A deer imprinted on humans will still have its wild instincts and may treat a human the same way it would treat another deer, he added.
"Even when they're in a herd, it's not all one big, happy family."