PLATTSBURGH — Tonight's TV show "Fatal Attractions" will feature the story of an Ellenburg man who was killed by a whitetail deer he kept as a pet.
No one knows why Ronald Donah, 43, a correction officer who worked at Lyon Mountain Correctional Facility, entered the pen of the rutting buck when he got home from work on the morning of Nov. 12, 2006. A neighbor heard a scream. When he went to check on Ronald, it was too late.
The Animal Planet show's producer approached Donah's mother, Gwendolyn Donah, 73, and his sister, Nancy McLean, 52, of Peru, on the fourth anniversary of his death.
Although apprehensive at first, they eventually decided to appear on the program.
They thought it might do some good.
"If this saves a life, it means a lot," Mrs. Donah said from her Plattsburgh home.
For McLean, the timing was a sign that the show was meant to air.
She wants other people to know that deer in rut are dangerous. Even hunters need to be aware, she said.
"If they are just walking along and they don't have their guns ready, it can be dangerous."
Ronald originally kept the deer to train his beagles, his relatives said.
Hunters will often house dogs in kennels located near pens with deer in an attempt to break the canines from chasing them.
But Ronald's deer soon became like his kids, Mrs. Donah said.
"He fell in love with them. He grew really attached."
He kept seven deer all together, two of them bucks.
Mrs. Donah said he had about 10 years of experience with deer and knew they were dangerous at that time of year, so she is left wondering why he went into the pen.
That awful day, the neighbor discovered Ronald's body with the buck and called the authorities.
When state troopers arrived, they couldn't get near the deer, Mrs. Donah said.
The tragedy occurred only two days before Mrs. Donah's birthday.
"It's very difficult to lose a child," she said. "He was going to retire in July."
Mrs. Donah was reminded of her son's death in 2009, when a 56-year-old Moira man had to fight off a vicious attack by a wild deer that assaulted him while he was loading wood into a front-end loader bucket in his yard.
"When I saw that, my heart went up in my throat," Mrs. Donah said.
The program, titled "A Buffalo Rides Shotgun," will air at 9 and 11 p.m. on the Animal Planet network.