By JIM SUHR
Associated Press Writer
CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) -- A year after the normally docile creatures attacked seven people on a university campus here, the deer have turned bullish again.
Three people were attacked by deer within minutes of each other Tuesday on a footpath at Southern Illinois University, police said Wednesday. One doe probably was responsible for all three attacks, said Todd Sigler, the school's public safety chief.
One worker needed stitches for a gash on his forehead, another suffered cuts, bruises and a sprained wrist, and a student was left with a scratched jaw. Two of the victims sought medical treatment.
This week's incidents came earlier in fawning season than last year's attacks, which officials attributed to a combination of protective motherly instinct, squeezed habitat and, in some cases, people trying to approach fawns. There was no indication that anyone hurt Tuesday had provoked the deer, Sigler said.
"It's bothersome," Sigler said. "We certainly appreciate the deer, and we don't want to get rid of them. At the same time, we don't want people getting injured. It's a difficult situation."
SIU officials last week launched a public-awareness campaign to implore anyone on the 20,000-student campus to watch out for deer, to not approach the animals and, if a wild-eyed deer starts bounding their way, run.
"The options explained to us last year -- relocating the deer, tranquilizing them, thinning them out (through controlled hunts) -- all come with a downside," Sigler said. "We're going to try this education approach first and see what happens."
The path where Tuesday's attacks occurred has been closed off; handwritten signs were posted reading "Caution: Deer attacks."
The path encircles a lake and is less than a mile from the thickly forested campus woods and paved trails where deer confronted many last June.
More than one deer was believed to be responsible for the 2005 run-ins, in which four people suffered mostly minor injuries and others were threatened.
Walking through the Thompson Woods on Wednesday, Jane Swanson talked of how people joked about the deer last summer, saying they were more worried about wildlife than muggers.
But the chair of the school's psychology department says it's no longer a laughing matter.
"It makes sense that these poor deer are trying to protect their newborns, but we've got to figure out something other then just avoiding the deer," she said.
(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)