SALEM — A deer prompted a slow-moving police chase yesterday morning as it took an hourlong jaunt through the downtown, eventually ditching officers during a mysterious confrontation near the Broad Street Cemetery.
Police say someone reported seeing the animal in the area of Salem Common about 9 a.m. From there, the deer cut a path past the Hawthorne Hotel and headed up Essex Street toward the pedestrian mall.
The deer apparently traveled the entire length of the mall, then crossed the busy intersection with Washington Street to Lappin Park, where the “Bewitched” statue is located. There it paused.
Steve Feldmann, owner of the nearby Gulu Gulu Cafe, said he was inside the business when he noticed the commotion.
“A couple of customers were like, ‘There’s a deer in your yard!’” Feldmann said. “It was a young deer ... It looked really scared.”
As people watched from windows, officers in three police vehicles converged on the area and formed a “perimeter” around the animal, said Feldmann.
But police couldn’t tranquilize the deer and didn’t want to shoot it — so they ended up having little choice but to await its next move, which ended up being a quick jog up Essex Street past Harrison’s comic book shop.
From there, the deer somehow made it to Summer and High streets. Police were tight-lipped about the exact route it took to get there, though one acknowledged the deer had been sighted on Crombie Street at one point or another.
From Summer Street, the deer entered the Broad Street Cemetery and ran across toward Winthrop Street, said George Leblanc, a Broad Street resident. Leblanc said he’s seen numerous deer in the area, though none others since early last autumn.
“It shot right across,” he said, as he looked out at the cemetery from the rear of his building. “This one came out of the clear blue.”
From there, accounts of the deer’s movements diverge. Leblanc said he saw police catch up to the animal on Winthrop Street, then follow it down the street and out of his view. Police say their last interaction with the animal was actually on Broad Street.
Lt. James Walker confirmed early yesterday afternoon that police didn’t know where the deer had gone, but said the calls about it had died down.
“I think he’s bunkered down somewhere,” said Walker.
By afternoon, photos of the deer were circulating on social media websites like Facebook, and even Mayor Kim Driscoll had rebroadcast one via Twitter.
The incident brought to mind previous instances where wild animals made their way downtown, including the time a woodchuck walked into a store on Derby Street last year, and when police caught a coyote in a parking lot on Lynde Street in 2008.
In 2004 a deer made its way downtown and knocked over a tourist, who suffered a concussion and fractured ribs. Just days later, a deer was struck by a car near the library on Essex Street and later euthanized. It was thought to be the same deer.
Neil H. Dempsey can be reached at email@example.com.