A wild deer has been put down but a second one remains at large after the pair roamed through streets in the Sydney suburbs of Leichhardt, Balmain and Annandale on Tuesday morning.
The two deer were spotted running through the inner-west suburbs, even entering a garage and jumping over the head of one woman, according to residents.
One was captured by NSW police on Tuesday afternoon and examined by a veterinarian, who found it was a feral animal.
An RSPCA spokesman said it was taken to the organisation’s Sydney veterinary hospital.
“The deer was assessed by veterinary staff and found to be a feral animal, in poor health and with significant injuries, and was humanely euthanised,” he said.
The RSPCA said there were no signs either of the animals were owned and urged the public to stay away from the second deer, which is still at large.
“The reported second deer was last observed on the streets of Leichhardt,” it said. “If you see this animal, please do not make any attempts to approach or capture the deer. Please report any sightings to RSPCA NSW.”
Neither the RSPCA nor the police know how the animals came to be in the inner city.
Earlier on Tuesday, Leichhardt resident Jackie Grozdanovski told Guardian Australia she had spotted them on the way to the gym.
“I was driving along Darley Road on my way to the gym at about 5.30am,” she said.
“The roads were fairly quiet so some movement coming up on my left-hand side caught my attention. At first I thought it was a dog running and then I noticed there were two animals running closely together and wondered what sort of dogs are that tall.
“As I got closer I had to do a double-take and slowed down, thinking: are you going crazy? Is that two deer? It couldn’t possibly be. When I got to the gym I said to one of the ladies: I just saw the strangest thing and you’re going to think I’m making this up, but I think I just saw two deer running along Darley Road!”
A police spokeswoman said the two animals wandered through several suburbs.
“About 6.30am police received reports of two deer wandering around a park near Breillat Street in Annandale,” she said. “This was following further sightings of the deer around Balmain, Leichhardt and the Annandale area.
“It is unknown how the deer came to be found in an urban area.”
Another resident, Lorna Beattie, told Guardian Australia one of the deer entered her building complex and “jumped over my head”.
“My cats ran into the house and were a bit freaked out by something,” she said. “My partner saw the deer in our townhouse complex as he left for work. I went to open the gate and the poor thing was very distressed. He jumped over my head.
“He was running into the fences and walls trying to find a way out. We eventually managed to herd him out one of our gates.”
Earlier another concerned resident had raised the alarm in a post on a local community Facebook group.
“There are two deer running around Leichhardt,” she wrote. “Walking the dog this morning, I saw them running down Mackenzie Street. Thought I was imagining it, but ran into another dog walker who saw them too.”
It’s not the first time the animal has found its way into Sydney’s denser suburbs. In 2016, a male deer was killed by a motorist driving a BMW in Bondi Junction.
Andrew Cox, the chief executive of the Invasive Species Council, said feral deer had become an increasing problem in NSW as the population continued to grow.
According to the Department of Primary Industries, the animal’s distribution increased from about 8% of NSW in 2009 to 17% in 2016. Cox said that likely included areas surrounding Sydney.
“Sydney has quite a lot of bushland and biodiversity close to the city and deer are quite cryptic, flighty animals,” he said. “They’re really good at hiding and move around at night so they could have escaped detection for quite a while.”
He pointed to a 2018 Senate committee submission by Wollongong City Council which stated that in the 13-year period from 2005 to 2017, there were 107 motor vehicle accidents involving deer in the area, including one where a person died. A survey conducted by the council found that 30% of residents in deer-affected areas had “nearly collided with deer”.
The NSW government in September 2019 changed the rules so that people didn’t need a game hunting licence to hunt feral deer on private land, “allowing them to be managed in the same way that rabbits, foxes, pigs and goats are controlled”.
The primary industries department said at the time the change aimed to “better support landholders managing the current drought conditions and abundant deer herds”.
Cox said the change had “made it easier to control deer” but population control was still difficult.
“Even with a shooting program it’s hard to keep ahead of the breeding numbers,” he said. “Sydney is certainly very suitable for deer [and] over time if they’re not controlled they will be all throughout the bushland around the city.”
The Leichhardt deer are only the latest in a series of animal close encounters, including several in nearby Sydney suburbs. Earlier this year three baboons, one of whom was being taken for a vasectomy, escaped from Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred hospital.
The NSW health minister, Brad Hazzard, later said the 15-year-old male baboon who was getting the vasectomy was being accompanied by two younger female baboons to keep him calm. The male’s vasectomy was completed later.
In 2014, two water buffalo escaped from a film set in Newtown in Sydney’s inner west and chased pedestrians down King Street. In April, a kangaroo hopped through the empty Adelaide CBD during the depths of the coronavirus lockdown, and in July, police captured a kangaroo that was bounding down the street in Florida in the US.
In 2017, a rogue camel escaped from a circus in Darwin and made its way to the golf course of the Royal Australian Air Force base, a wild boar escaped into Hong Kong’s financial district in 2016 – taking more than three hours to be caught – and two llamas were chased by police through the streets of Sun City, Arizona, in 2015.