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Bucks living in near the Berkeley Pit.

Three deer are shown here near the Berkeley Pit in late August.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks shot an injured, 7-point mule deer near the Berkeley Pit on Friday.

According to Butte resident Tyrel Sieler, he, his wife and his boss were headed Uptown for lunch around noon Friday when they decided to stop at the Berkeley Pit viewing stand, as Sieler had never been. There, they noticed a large buck struggling to get up the hill near the viewing stand gift shop and decided to call FWP.

When Game Warden Regan Dean arrived, he found the buck on the same hill, bedded down above the flower garden. Dean believed the deer had a broken shoulder, possibly from being hit by a vehicle. As he approached the animal, it would get up, take a few steps, then lie back down.

“He had a hard time getting up and a hard time standing,” Dean said.

Dean has seen an animal live on three legs before, so he said he stayed in the area to watch the buck. About 15 minutes later, the buck made its way into an area fenced on three sides near the railroad tracks to lie down.

That’s where Dean shot the buck.

“It’s a sad thing to see any deer go through,” Dean said. “I knew he couldn’t use that leg and he wouldn’t make it much longer.”

Various towns in Montana are starting to see more deer within city limits, Dean said. He urges people to be more cautious driving around town because of this increase.

In Butte, especially large bucks tend to be seen hanging near the Berkeley Pit. (A 5-point mule deer was poached in the area last year.) They are known as “pit bucks” or “mine bucks,” and some have reportedly lived there for years.

Dean doesn’t know why the deer are drawn to the area or how many are there now. There is good deer habitat in the north behind the mine area, Dean said, but the Pit itself must have something to offer for the bucks to stick around.

“There must be some good food there or something good to make them big,” Dean said with a chuckle.

Regardless of why they like the Pit, the bucks that hang out near it have become a sort of attraction, Dean said. People have taken an interest in them, know them by their antlers and, in some cases, have even given them names. There was a name for the buck Dean had to shoot, he said, but he didn’t know what it was. 

“This was a really unfortunate thing," Dean said. "People dream about harvesting a buck like that, but doing it this way brings no joy.”

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