December 28, 2004

Giant Breeding Deer Goliath Dies in Pa.

PITTSBURGH -- A 7 1/2-year-old monster buck named Goliath, allegedly stolen in 1999 and then returned to the ranch where he was raised, has died. The massive deer died Dec. 6; tests will determine the cause. The life span of a deer is 10 to 15 years.

"It could have been due to a lot of the stress that he endured from being away from here," said Diane Miller, who raised the buck with her husband at their Wild Bunch Ranch, about 60 miles north of Pittsburgh. "It's just like losing a family member."

Goliath, believed to be the largest whitetail bred in captivity, vanished from the Millers' ranch in October 1999 when he was about 2, weighed 260 pounds and had 28 points, or antler tips.

In July 2003, members of the Pennsylvania Deer Farmers Association saw a deer they believed was Goliath on a deer farm about 50 miles from the Millers. The deer had grown much larger and its rack had about twice the number of points.

The farm's owner, Jeffrey Spence, is awaiting trial on charges of theft and receiving stolen property. DNA testing on the recovered buck matched a sample from Goliath before he disappeared, according to Ronald Elliott, the Millers' attorney.

Spence's attorney, Troy Harper, has said if the deer was Goliath, Spence acquired it "in the proper manner." Spence was trying to sell the buck for $150,000 at the time it was found. Some massive bucks have sold for more than $500,000.

Diane Miller said Goliath mated this fall.

"Hopefully the does he was in with this fall will fawn to him in the spring," she said.