Child playing in backyard injured by running deer


Mar 11, 2001
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December 01, 2003

Girl really was run over by a reindeer

Emily Shelton, 9 years old, is already laughing about her run-in with the spooked animal.

By Mason Adams, Roanoke Times

SALEM - To most people, "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" is an annoying Christmas novelty song.

To Emily Shelton, 9, and Abby Migliarese, 10, however, it's an inside joke that will remind them of Saturday for the rest of their lives.

The two girls were playing in Abby's back yard in Salem when a deer came running over a hill and, spooked by the sight of Abby, took a left turn - directly into Emily.

Emily suffered a fat lip and a broken arm. She was taken to Carilion Roanoke Community Hospital, where she got a cast for her arm, before returning home later Saturday night.

By Sunday, though, the girls were laughing about it, having refashioned the "Grandma" lyrics to their experience:

"Emily got run over by a reindeer/walking through the woods one Saturday./You may say there's no such thing as mean deer/but as for me and Abby, we believe."

The girls said they were playing with Abby's sister Kim, 8, and cousin Melissa, 12, near a strip of pine trees on Forest Drive. Emily was building steps to a fort when Abby saw the deer run out from behind a nearby shed.

Seeing Abby, the deer took an abrupt left into Emily, who had her back turned. Emily landed on her wrist before tumbling down the hill.

Abby sent her sister and cousin for help before running over to check on Emily.

Abby's mother, Kristine Migliarese, heard shouting from inside the house.

"When I heard them screaming, I thought, 'Someone fell down,'" Migliarese said.

She found Abby kneeling by Emily, who was covered with dirt and with leaves in her hair. She called 911 and Emily's father. An ambulance, fire truck and Jeff Shelton arrived within minutes.

On the ride to the hospital, Jeff Shelton kept Emily laughing, telling her he was going to take her on hunting trips and use her as deer bait.

The paramedics, firefighters and emergency room staff were surprised at how the injury had occurred, Emily said.

"The doctors there were like, 'I never heard that one before,'" Emily said.

This sort of case is rare, but not unheard of, said David Steffen, the forest wildlife manager for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

"This time of year it would be unusual, but not unheard of for bucks to be aggressive," Steffen said. "This doesn't sound like that was the case. It sounds like just a fluke accident."

Emily is upbeat and obviously enjoying the attention from her brush with the wild side. She does think, though, that television networks are conspiring against her.

"On one show there was an evil reindeer, and a Nickelodeon show had a warning about 'Heads Up for Reindeer,'" Emily said with a grin. "It's like they know what happened."

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