Several Lakebay residents are mourning the loss of a beloved “pet” deer affectionately known to some as Piglet and to others as Willow. The deer was found shot with an arrow on Sept. 10.
The young buck first made its appearance in Lakebay in July and has made an impact on several families. One of those families is offering a reward of $1,000 for any information leading to the conviction of the deer’s killer.
Lowell Jones became very fond of Willow, as he came to know the deer with one long antler and one stunted. He was the one to find Willow on his property under a cottonwood tree, dead.
“I just wish that I could have got to him sooner and could save him, but I couldn’t,” he said. “I feel a real void and I really miss him.”
Capt. Dan Brinson of the Region 6 office of the state Department Fish and Wildlife in Montesano said that archery season (bow and arrow hunting) opened on Sept. 1 and there is nothing his office can do in regards to this incident.
Jones believes Willow was about a year old and was left to defend himself in the wild. “He was a special wildlife creature that took to people,” he said.
Others believe that Willow/Piglet was raised by someone and then set free once he became too much to handle. “This is what happens when people turn wildlife animals into pets,” Brinson said.
Jones said Willow was a special friend who made his day more special each time he visited and was smart enough to know and respond to his name when called.
“Willow made his home at my home and I thought it would be best that he remains home, and so I buried him under his favorite spot at my house, under my bedroom window,” he said. “I wanted to give him a proper burial.”
Several friends and neighbors came to Willow’s burial, laid flowers and shared their memories.
Jones admits although he considers Willow to be a wild animal, he was known as a pet to him and many of his neighbors. “I got very attached to him,” he said. “He was such a cute, loveable guy… I’ve never known a pet for only three months and became so attached.”
The biggest issue that Jones has with Willow’s death was that whoever shot him, did so on private property and didn’t follow up on the shot.
The young buck was given the name Piglet by Dave and Anne Nesbit’s 4-year-old son, Matt, for his eating habits.
“He just ate anything and everything,” Dave Nesbit said. “Piglet loved to eat our flowers.” Nesbit said Piglet’s death has been the hardest for their son, who would wake up every day and ask if Piglet would come to visit.
Mayo Cove resident Cindy Johnson-Kuntz remembers when she first met the young buck through her daughter. “I first met Piglet when I was cleaning my barn one day,” she said. “I could hear my 4-year-old daughter playing in the distance. She kept saying, ‘Oh, dear! I love you, dear!’ I wondered what in creation she was doing and when I looked up in the horse pasture, I was in shock. There was my little girl, barefoot and in a bathing suit, playing in a water trough with a buck.”
Johnson-Kuntz said she started to scream for her daughter, Hallie, to get away from the wild animal. Her daughter put her arms around the deer’s neck, and said, “No, he loves me and he is my deer friend.”
To the woman’s amazement, the young buck seemed to enjoy the hug. To make sure her daughter was safe, Johnson-Kuntz ran up to her. The deer walked up to the woman and rubbed her with his nose.
“When I tried to walk Hallie down to the house, the deer just followed us, and stood at the back door waiting for us to come back out and play,” Johnson-Kuntz said.
One close encounter with the young buck occurred at Bud Ulsh’s home on July 31, when he and his wife rescued him from their pool after he’d fallen in. Setting up for their annual senior picnic, Ulsh was inside his home when Willow/Piglet showed up at their Lakebay home. Ulsh believes the deer thought the pool covered with a solar blanket was OK to walk on when he fell into the water.
“He started to thrash around and got his front feet onto the deck but couldn’t get out,” he said.
Too heavy to pull him out himself, Ulsh asked for his wife to come out and help. Ulsh jumped in the pool and pushed him up while his wife helped pull him out. “After we got him out of the pool, we were hoping that he would stick around for our picnic, but he left,” he said.
On a different occasion, Ulsh recalls another time when Willow/Piglet came into and made himself at home. “One day he came in through our back door and inside the kitchen,” he said. “I had to push him out.”
Ulsh said the young buck just walked around the house and before he knew it, the deer had come inside. “Boy, that was pretty neat,” he said.
“I just wanted to say how heartbroken our family is over this senseless and evil act of cruelty,”
Lakebay resident Lori Harrison-Hagen said, “As a frequent visitor to Herron Island, I have had numerous encounters with tame and friendly deer, but have never encountered so gentle and friendly an animal as our local deer. He would freely explore our yard and even enter our home.”
Even in the midst of several remodeling projects involving heavy machinery and power tools, Willow/Piglet made his presence known to those around him. “He would go right up to the workers in the bulldozers, nuzzle his head in the cab and not walk away until he was satisfied with the attention he received,” she said.
Harrison-Hagen added that she can’t imagine the type of person who could commit such an act of violence against this gentle and defenseless creature. “What could the sport be in killing an animal that happily walks up and eats out of your hand,” she said. “It would be like killing a kitten.
“This killing was clearly an act of viciousness, as this animal was left to die a slow and torturous death, with an arrow protruding from his severed spine. If someone is capable of this type of viciousness against a defenseless animal, it seems possible that their cruelty may potentially not be limited to animals.”