‘J.R.' the Harlem Buck Dies in NYC Just as State Rescuers Arrive to Transport It

What to Know

  • The state has decided not to euthanize a deer that took up residence in Harlem's Jackie Robinson Park
  • The deer was spotted roaming the park in early December, and was even nicknamed "J.R." by neighborhood residents
  • City Parks Department officials said travel causes stress to animals and relocated deer have low survival rates

A white-tailed buck who was granted a last-minute reprieve from euthanasia after being captured in Harlem has died.

The one-antlered buck died while state officials from the Department of Environmental Conservation were arranging transportation to relocate the deer upstate. It was kept in a caged area outside the animal shelter.

The city blamed the state for the animal's death.

"Because of the length of time we had to wait to pick up the deer, the deer has died," Parks Department spokesman Sam Biederman said. 

The state says that's not true. 

"We offered yesterday to take possession of the deer and transport it to a suitable habitat," DEC spokesman Sean Mahar said in a statement. "The city did not accept our offer until just before noon today, and while we were arriving on scene the deer died in the city's possession."

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The buck was captured at the Polo Grounds Towers on West 155th Street and taken to an animal shelter early Thursday. He drew crowds for about two weeks at Jackie Robinson Park, where curious passersby snapped photos of "J.R.," a nickname given to him by residents.

Outpourings of sadness immediately followed the news of the four-legged viral sensation's death.


Mayor de Blasio had said the deer would be put down Thursday evening after the state Environmental Conservation officials initially said they wouldn't be able to relocate the buck in the city.

"It's going to be a quick and merciful death versus a long and painful process," de Blasio said on WNYC Radio Friday. "That's the governing philosophy as best I understand it." 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo made efforts to rescue the buck in its 11th hour. He said the state would "find a new habitat for it immediately," just an hour after the mayor ordered the deer to be euthanized. 

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The city Parks Department said euthanasia would be more humane because travel causes stress and relocated deer have low survival rates. However, city officials said they "defer to the state as the regulatory authority on wildlife."

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J.R. wasn't the only deer in the news Friday. Officials were trying to rescue a deer that fell through the ice in South Amboy, New Jersey.

Firefighters in South Amboy, New Jersey, rescue a deer from an icy pond Friday evening. Chopper 4 was over the scene.
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