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January 11, 2014

Deer gores eye of woman, 75, at Fla. sanctuary

Tampa Tribune

SPRING HILL, Fla. — A woman gored in the eye by a deer this morning at the same Pasco County sanctuary where a lion escaped last week is the sister of the sanctuary's owner.

Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman Gary Morse said the agency has opened a formal investigation. It's the second time in a week officers responded to an incident involving an animal that was owned and cared for by Survival Outreach Sanctuary.

Morse did not release the victim's name but said she is the sister of Judy Watson, who was charged with a misdemeanor last Friday after the 150-pound female lion escaped its enclosure and had to be tranquilized.

Morse said he could not confirm that Watson placed a 911 call Friday morning to authorities. The caller said her sister had been gored at the Survival Outreach Sanctuary, 22005 Bowman Road in Spring Hill.

In the 911 call, released by the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, the woman said her sister was bleeding from her eye and she was covered with blood.

"Is it completely out of the socket?" the operator asked. "Yes," she responded.

According to its website, the sanctuary houses large cats including tigers and cougars, as well as wolf dogs and other wildilfe. The nonprofit sanctuary was founded in 1990 by Watson and cares for animals that have been abandoned or abused.

The victim and her sister sat in an RV and waited for paramedics, according to the 911 recording, and dispatch stressed the woman remain perfectly still, and not consume food or water.

Hernando County Fire Rescue assisted Pasco County personnel in establishing a landing zone for an emergency medical helicopter, according to Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Carroll.

The woman's condition was not immediately available.

Ricky Miller, 21, who lives next door to the sanctuary, said he had an encounter with the deer Nov. 27 and briefly thought about shooting it.

He said his fiancee's mother and aunt were visiting, but when they tried to leave the deer was in his yard and wouldn't let them get to their car.

Miller went outside and was able to distract the deer while the two women escaped in the car.

"I was trying to get him off the property," Miller said. "I didn't want to wind up getting bucked by a deer."

Miller said his fiancee's father then came to the house, grabbed the deer by the antlers and dragged it back to the sanctuary.

Miller said he told the sanctuary's owner that if the deer came back to "consider him a done deal."

"I don't want to risk what happened to that lady," Miller said.

The sanctuary should have released the deer when it was younger, before it became used to being around humans and was no longer afraid of them, Miller said.

He said a friend of his found the deer abandoned next to a nearby canal when it was a baby, and took it to the sanctuary where it could be cared for.

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