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Teamwork saves life of deer

June 19, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE

Staff Writer

HOLTVILLE — A zanjero and a local farmer teamed up Tuesday morning to save the life of a 150-pound Chocolate Mountain doe that had wandered more than 25 miles from its native desert habitat.

Juan Botello, a zanjero for the Imperial Irrigation District's Holtville division, was driving about 9 a.m. Tuesday on a drain bank a quarter mile west of Mets Road north of Interstate 8, near where Ross Road dead-ends, when he saw what looked like a deer.

"I spotted it under a haystack lying there. I couldn't believe it," he said.

He drove closer.

"I wanted to see if it was really a deer or not," he said.

As he drove up Botello called local farmer Clem Muller at his house.

"I told him, ‘I found a deer half a mile away from your house (on Muller's land).' He said, ‘Nah, can't be,'" Botello remembers.


Muller was having coffee at his house with two friends when the call came in.

The coffee would have to wait as the guys piled into Muller's truck and headed to round up the doe.

"When I pulled up Botello said, "There it is Clem! It's running across your field,'" Muller recalls.

Working as a team, Botello took it from the left side and Muller took it from the right.

When they got close the deer bolted, jumped into a canal, jumped right out and started running again.

Eventually the deer tired, and when Botello drove up it lay down to rest in the shade cast by Botello's truck.

"I thought he hit it when it just laid down," Muller said.

With the deer resting, Muller crept up with a tow rope in hand.

When he got close, "It ran away," Muller said.

The doe started running toward Interstate 8.

Botello and Muller worked to corner it for good this time.

"Juan got up on top of the Mets Road overpass. I chased it back to the corner. When it saw it couldn't get over the overpass it tried to go through the fence there. It was cornered," Muller said.

With the deer stuck in the fence along the north shoulder of Interstate 8, Muller, who had tied a make-shift lariat with his tow rope, crept up behind the doe and roped its hind and fore legs to keep it from getting away again.

After putting in a call to the California Fish and Game Department, the guys — Botello, Muller, Dallas Crabtree, Lee Farris and Richard Ludwig — waited with the doe.

They made sure she was watered down and kept cool.

Upon inspection it looked like the doe weighed close to 150-160 pounds and might have been pregnant to boot.

"It was an exciting morning," Botello said.

And a big doe.

"You didn't miss it going across the field," he noted.

Game Warden Joe Brana said of the guys' efforts, "They saved the deer."

When Brana arrived at the scene, "They had it hobbled up, were putting water on it — all the things we do when we do our deer capture. They were being quiet so it wasn't alarmed. They did a professional job," he said.

Brana was surprised they were put in that position.

"That's one of the things that I thought was quite unique. I have never seen a deer that far west," the 23-year veteran of the department said.

When he initially got the call he thought there was a bunch of drunk Holtville farmers pulling his leg.

While they weren't, he had good reason to think so because desert mule deer normally don't make the trek into the Imperial Valley due to the imposing Glamis Dunes, he said.

This doe, though, "Could have moved here along the Highline Canal a couple months ago; coyotes could have chased it across," he said.

Brana loaded up the deer and took it back to its native habitat.

Normally when a deer has its feet tied for that long it will lie on the ground stunned when the hobbles are removed, Brana said.

"This deer; we took off the hobbles and the blindfold and it took off. It was in good shape," he said.

Brana said the release of the wandering doe capped a memorable morning.

"It had a happy ending," he said.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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