RIP, Harlem deer: Beloved resident dies of 'stress' after bureaucratic tussle

White-tailed deer roaming the city aren't entirely uncommon. This one died this week.

Story highlights

  • City, state give their take on what happened to deer that was in Harlem
  • Official says it succumbed to 'stress of captivity' while awaiting move

New York (CNN)Harlem's recent four-legged resident has quickly become its most missed. The Harlem deer has died.

The animal had been roaming around Harlem's Jackie Robinson Park for the past couple of weeks. The white-tailed deer was caught Thursday near West 155th Street, according to CNN affiliate WCBS.
After a contentious back and forth between New York City and state government officials, it was decided that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) would help city officials relocate the deer upstate instead of euthanizing it on Thursday.
Unfortunately, the speed of state and city government was too slow for the deer's delicate health. The deer died shortly after state DEC officials arrived on scene to relocate it.
"We offered yesterday to take possession of the deer and transport it to a suitable habitat," DEC spokesman Sean Mahar said in a statement. "The city did not accept our offer until just before noon, and while we were arriving on scene the deer died in the city's possession."
According to a tweet from the mayor's spokesman, Eric Phillips, the deer died "while under the stress of captivity and while awaiting potential transport upstate by DEC."
The chief of wildlife and education for the city's Department of Parks and Recreation, Sarah Aucoin, said the low temperatures combined with the time the deer spent both tranquilized and in captivity made its death more likely, according to WCBS.
In a radio interview with WNYC Friday morning, hours before accepting the DEC's offer, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city believed it was safest to put the deer down humanely.
"It could not be left in the streets of Harlem," De Blasio told WNYC. "If a deer is already in a natural location and you can leave them there, then they have a chance of survival. But if not, you don't really have another option. That's my understanding from our folks who work in the field."
While Mahar said the deer was ultimately the city's responsibility, he noted that it is the DEC's job to "work with municipalities on a case-by-case basis to offer guidance and assistance in addressing nuisance wildlife."
White-tailed deer roaming the city aren't entirely uncommon, according to Mahar. Because deer are a transitory species, their presence in urban areas and parks is temporary, Mahar said.
"We encourage New Yorkers to observe and enjoy the deer from a safe distance for as long as it calls a city home," he said.
Many social media users were dismayed at the deer's passing.
"Very upset about #HarlemDeer," wrote Twitter user Michelle Powers. "Shows what stress can do to animals & how much they internalize. RIP, little guy. Hope we do better next time."
Also on Twitter, Haneen Arafat Murphy wrote: "The #harlemdeer that just died from stress while the city and state bickered over how to deal w/it is a fittingly terrible parable for 2016."