The wandering deer they were chasing scared away a frightened mother when the big buck used her garage as a hiding place. That's where the chase ended, on Spruce near Marks.
The deer was first spotted at an elementary school more than two miles from its final destination. But his wild journey ended inside the garage after he charged at the homeowner, jumped over her hedge, and parked himself right next to the open door from the garage to her home.
The wild kingdom paid a visit to the tamed lawns of Northwest Fresno on Thursday as a big buck went on the run. Away from its natural habitat along the San Joaquin River, the deer cruised through busy streets and private driveways, giving drivers and neighbors the type of thrill they'll never forget.
"This thing just started running with its tongue hanging out, jumping over hedges and fences and everything else in its way," said Ron Von Tersh, who followed the stag and tried to steer it back to the river.
Students at Nelson Elementary School saw it first -- as it ran through campus during a fire drill. Administrators joked it was a reindeer separated from Santa and his crew.
But the thrills turned to panic when the 170-pound buck and its 35-inch antlers took aim at a mother who'd opened her garage to clean it. Thankfully, Fresno police had started following the deer about a mile earlier and an officer turned on his siren just in time.
"I turned around and this deer was charging at me," said Joanna Thompson, whose home was the deer's final destination. "So when I screamed, he went into my garage."
Police officers contained the deer in the garage, then called for help from the Department of Fish and Game.
After re-arranging the garage, Fish and Game officers tied up the buck's hooves, blindfolded him, and got him out.
The deer apparently caused no damage and as the fear died down, even the woman who got the closest look at the runaway forgave him.
"I'm an animal lover, you know?" said Thompson. "I still like deer."
Fish and Game officers released the deer in a secret location along the river. They told Action News it was healthy enough to get up and run right away, and it left Fresno County in a hurry -- swimming across the San Joaquin River -- into Madera County.
Not quite the North Pole, but the right direction.