Wildlife officials say injured deer in Costa Mesa, likely hit by car, had to be euthanized

An injured mule deer was found Saturday in the yard of a home on Costa Mesa's east side, suffering from a broken leg.
(Courtesy of Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center)

Local wildlife authorities responded this weekend to a rare sighting of an adult mule deer in the yard of a home on Costa Mesa’s east side that had sustained a serious leg injury and was later euthanized.

Debbie McGuire, executive director of Huntington Beach’s nonprofit Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center, said she received a call Saturday morning from a Costa Mesa police captain asking for her assistance.

“He said, ‘We’ve got a deer in a yard in east-side Costa Mesa,’ and I’m like, ‘No, we don’t have deer there,” she said in an interview Tuesday.

A deer, found Saturday with a compound leg fracture, was humanely euthanized by wildlife officials later that day.
(Courtesy of Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center)

When McGuire arrived at the residence, located near the intersection of 16th Street and San Bernardino Place, she saw a six-point buck with antlers nestled in the grass and apparently suffering from numerous wounds, including a compound fracture in its left hind leg.

Costa Mesa police officers, along with animal control officers from both Costa Mesa and Newport Beach were on hand to provide assistance throughout the incident.

Although deer are very uncommonly seen in the county’s urban settings — tending to roam in more isolated areas, such as the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park and Santa Ana Mountains — bystanders at the scene reported having witnessed the same stag in the Castaways area of Newport Beach since April.

Because the Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center does not usually treat large mammals such as deer, McGuire called on California Fish & Wildlife officials, who responded with tranquilizer guns to subdue the animal so it could be transported to the center for examination and possibly treatment.

Veterinarian Elizabeth Wood and wildlife technician Teal Helms look over a tranquilized deer found in Costa Mesa Saturday.
WWCC Veterinarian Elizabeth Wood, left, and technician Teal Helms look over a tranquilized deer after it was found at a Costa Mesa residence Saturday.
(Courtesy of Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center)

A portion of San Bernardino Place was closed off by officers, and onlookers were cleared from the scene in case the deer bolted during the tranquilization.

Once she was able to get a better look at the deer, McGuire noticed the broken bone was protruding through the skin. Another, older wound was visible on the buck’s front right leg. She said it may have been struck by a vehicle.

“He had a fracture of the rear leg, a flesh wound, and the bone was hanging out. You can’t really fix that with a deer,” she said, explaining wild deer in captivity often experience capture myopathy, as their intense fear causes severe muscle damage and ultimately death.

Having been examined by WWCC veterinarian Dr. Elizabeth Wood, a decision was made on Saturday afternoon to euthanize the deer while it was under anesthesia. Its remains were handled by Orange County Animal Control officers.

“That was the most humane option, the poor thing,” McGuire said Tuesday.

Officials urge citizens who see deer in residential areas such as Costa Mesa and Newport Beach to call the Wetlands & Wildlife Center at (714) 374-5587. Drivers involved in a collision with a deer are advised to contact their local law enforcement agency immediately.