Deer encounter provides special moment

YOSEMITE VALLEY, Calif. — My mouth dropped the moment I saw him; I couldn’t believe whom I had been staring at for the past five minutes.

I first witnessed him casually walking towards the bustling Degnan’s Café in Yosemite Valley. It was part of his normal routine – he didn’t seem to notice as gasping visitors flashed their cameras at him. He held his composure and simply did not care that he was a local celebrity for the moment. The attention he was receiving wasn’t going to distract him.

Left, a deer picks at a snack in front of Degnan’s Cafe in Yosemite Valley. Below, after having attracted a crowd, the deer clumsily gets his antlers trapped in small tree as he reaches for leaves. Last, a fawn is accompanied by an older deer near the hiking trail to Mirror Lake (Photos by Ramon Galiana). 

I was one of those visitors. My finger was trigger-happy as I shot away on my camera in complete shock at what he had begun doing. He had walked off the main sidewalk and turned his head just slightly to access his favorite snack: green leaves that were delectably hanging from a small bush just outside the café.


It seems that deer have grown increasingly accustomed to humans in the Valley. Unlike the ones I’ve encountered in Florida, these didn’t scatter about as soon as they spotted a person. Instead, they cautiously analyze your actions while casually proceeding with what they were doing – constantly aware of your presence to ensure that you don’t get too close. 


As much as they don’t seem to notice you, they are watching to see if you are friend or foe; any aggressive movement you make could either send him running away from or at you with his massive antlers lowered in a charge.

Surprisingly, the only animal-caused fatality in Yosemite Valley was a little child that had fallen victim to the charge of a deer.

Visitors tend to not associate deer with aggressiveness, unlike the black bears that permeate the park.

When I was shooting photos of this particular deer, I was advised by a nearby wildlife photographer to not get too close. He was a freelancing wildlife photographer who had previously been charged at by a deer out by the North Pines Campground.

Apparently, getting too close to the animal while using flash photography can easily startle them and make them uneasy. If you’re lucky enough to catch a deer this close, be careful. Keep your distance, don’t make loud noises, and it is best to turn off your flash.

Wherever you encounter a deer in your stay in the Valley — do not take them lightly. I encountered a small fawn with its mother near the entrance of Mirror Lake.

At first it did not seem to notice me, but as I neared the duo, there was an inexplicable tension in the air. I had been spotted, and they certainly didn’t take me to their liking.

The deer shot me a menacing stare; as I neared, they waited for me to get too close before they started retreating.

The deer at Yosemite Valley are a sight to remember; but they’re also a sight to be seen from a comfortable distance. If a deer is exhibiting aggression, slowly back away.

Otherwise, enjoy them! There are few places where the deer are so willing to get near you without feeling threatened and scattering away – and at Yosemite Valley, you’ll certainly have the chance to meet these celebrities.

Ramon Galiana

University of Miami ’10


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