Ashley Navarre was startled to find this deer sheltering in her flood-ravaged LaPlace home days after Hurricane Ida. (Submitted/Ashley Navarre)
Panic quickly rushed through Ashley Navarre’s veins when she stepped foot inside her LaPlace home Wednesday and was startled by something she never expected to see lying on her bedroom floor. That overwhelming panic soon gave way to relief when the creature stood up and retreated into her bathroom where it lay down and kept a watchful eye on the encroaching human.
Navarre realized the deer wasn’t going to attack her and simply entered her house to seek shelter from the winds and floodwaters brought by Hurricane Ida.
Navarre, a 35-year-old registered nurse who splits her work time at River Place Psychiatric Hospital in LaPlace and East Jefferson General Hospital in Metairie, had evacuated ahead of the storm and returned once the floodwaters receded from her home in the Live Oak Landing subdivision. LaPlace was among some of the hardest-hit areas when the Category 4 Ida made landfall Sunday in Port Fourchon with sustained winds of 150 mph and a storm surge of up to 15 feet in some areas.
Pushing through feelings of anxiety and sadness as she faced her house, Navarre remembered she felt the same way 16 years ago. She lost everything when she lived in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, and here it was again — only this time it was her new house in LaPlace — entirely flooded and torn up by Ida’s relentless winds. Only this time something different happened.
“As far as feelings, just anxious, sad, basically devastated when I pulled up,” she said. “Now when I saw the deer, I had a panic attack, started screaming, which scared the deer. I was shocked.”
The deer, which had been lying on her bedroom floor, was equally startled. It stood up and scurried into her adjacent bathroom. Navarre kept her distance and called 911, which dispatched Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries agents. As Navarre waited for help to arrive, the deer eventually lay down and settled on her bathroom floor.
“I laughed after I calmed myself down,” she said. “God must have known I needed a laugh.”
When two wildlife agents arrived, they put some towels and rope around the animal to keep it from kicking, carried it out of the house and released it back into the wild.
Ed Pratt, spokesman for the Wildlife and Fisheries Department, said it’s not uncommon during or after a major storm for animals to show up in places where they don’t normally venture as floodwaters can often force them to seek temporary refuge in residential or commercial areas. People should keep their distance, never feed or try to move the animals and contact authorities if they pose an immediate concern.
The agency conveyed the same message in a press release Tuesday that said deer and feral hogs are among several species of concern in the wake of a hurricane.
“Deer and feral hog populations represent the two large quadruped species that may appear in populated areas in significant numbers as flood waters move wild animals out of natural habitat. As is the case with all wild animals, how these species will react to humans in close contact situations is unpredictable. LDWF recommends allowing these species, when sighted individually or in groups, to move unimpeded through flooded areas as they seek higher ground.”
Other creatures of concern include bears, alligators, snakes, sea turtles and marine mammals.
The deer that Navarre came in contact with had apparently entered her house through a door that was forced open by the storm’s winds. Other than being scared, it had no apparent injuries.
For Navarre, the experience brought a welcome relief from the anxiety and sadness that consumed her and many other residents in Southeast Louisiana this week, she said.
“I imagined ducks because I live on a pond or maybe a snake, fish or frogs but not a whole deer,” she said. “It did give me short-term relief from what was going on. We laughed after. Who expects to come home to a deer?”
After assessing the damage to her home, Navarre returned to her place of evacuation in Mississippi but plans to rebuild in LaPlace. Despite not having a house to live in right now, she said she is thankful her friends and family are all safe.
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