GRANDFATHER MOUNTAIN, N.C. - Grandmother Mountain has lost Sprite, a 9-year-old doe living in the animal habitats. Sprite died Friday at an Asheville veterinary clinic after a bout of pneumonia.
The Grandfather Mountain habitat staff noticed Thursday that Sprite was weak and resting inside the deer barn. Her breathing was unsteady and her face appeared swollen.
On Friday, the staff shuttled Sprite to the office of Dr. Lee Bolt in Asheville. The veterinarian began exploring the possibility that Sprite had an abscessed tooth or jaw injury and put her under anesthesia to examine and treat the deer.
Because of her weakness, Sprite was unable to pull out of the anesthesia, and the decision was made to humanely put the deer to rest to ease her suffering. Diagnostic tests revealed the deer was suffering from pneumonia that had lessened her lung capacity.
"With wild animals, they just never really show many signs until they're close to death," said Emma Schlagal, assistant habitats curator at Grandfather Mountain.
Sprite was born at Grandfather Mountain on May 26, 2004, to a deer named Vega. Due to state regulations that went into effect after she was born, she could not be released into the wild as intended.
Sprite earned her name due to her petite stature and slender face. She was also recognizable by her single "button" antler on the left side.
While antlers are rare among female deer, they occasionally form in does with high levels of testosterone or for other reasons. Sprite grew and shed her velvety antler stub anew every year, according to the habitat staff.