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A Deer Jumped Into the National Zoo’s Cheetah Exhibit. Guess What Happened Next.

It’s the circle of life.
Deer-killing machines. Photograph courtesy National Zoo.

It was only summer 2012 when the National Zoo’s cheetah siblings, Carmelita and Justin, were playful, adorable cubs. Today, they killed a deer.

The National Zoo says that a feral white-tailed deer jumped into the cheetah enclosure and soon fell victim to the natural order of things. A zookeeper heard bleating from the cheetah exhibit about 11:40 AM and looked over to find the deer on the ground with one of the cheetahs biting it on the throat.

The deer expired, and the carcass was removed from the pen at 11:54 and was taken away for a necropsy report to determine if it was carrying any diseases. Preliminary examinations of the cheetahs suggest they were unharmed by the encounter.

“They did what they’re supposed to do,” says zoo spokeswoman Annalisa Meyer.

Rock Creek Park, which surrounds the National Zoo, has a robust white-tailed deer population. Meyer says that while deer frequently pass through the zoo, it is extremely rare—but not unprecedented—for one to enter an animal exhibit.

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Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.