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Suspicious Park Animal Death
The Western North Carolina Nature Center is investigating the suspicious death of one of its animals.
A deer was found dead inside its exhibit Friday morning with a wound it received overnight that's raising serious questions.
"We've been here every year for about 10 or 11 years," said Ryan Burke.
Burke and and his family are visiting from Columbia and can't believe someone might have harmed one of the animals.
"That would be a real tragedy. I mean, they have a real great place here that a lot of people can enjoy," said Burke.
A caretaker found one of the center's three deer dead Friday morning with a suspicious wound.
"First we thought maybe she was injured in some way. We went in and noticed she had actually run into the fence. So we have reason to believe something really seriously spooked her," said WNC Nature Center Director Chris Gentile.
Officials first thought the deer might have been shot, but that has now been ruled out.
"We're really concerned that somebody or something got on grounds and created a stimulus to cause her to freak out the way she did," said Gentile.
People at the Nature Center fear this deer's death could be connected to an earlier incident here this summer, when someone broke into a barn and stole two rabbits. The rabbit exhibit has now been turned into a play area for children.
The deer roam a fenced area in what's known as Black Bear Ridge. Officials say because of their proximity to the road, the deer aren't easily spooked. They feel certain what happened Halloween night was definitely out of the ordinary.
"The puncture in her hind quarter is very suspicious," said Gentile.
Police are now investigating, hoping to find answers for officials and guests.
By Frank Fraboni
Follow Frank on Twitter @Frabonz