BRANDON — It wasn't until the sun peeked above the horizon, illuminating the flagpole outside Brandon High School, that teachers and students streaming into the building Monday morning noticed something was amiss.
Strung up the pole, where a flag usually flies, a dead deer — a four-point buck —hung by its back leg.
"We have no idea who did it," said Hillsborough County schools spokeswoman Tanya Arja. "We're assuming at this point it's some sort of prank."
Indeed, Hillsborough sheriff's spokesman Larry McKinnon deemed the incident a prank "gone way too far."
The school bore no other signs of vandalism, McKinnon said.
Staff quickly lowered the deer, Arja said, and moved it out of sight until sheriff's investigators arrived. "Unfortunately some students did see it and took pictures," Arja said.
Twitter buzzed with the news, reactions ranging from disgusted to flabbergasted:
This is the epitome of Brandon High School pic.twitter.com/YhKYYPWZGn— Kelc (@kelceygirll) November 16, 2015
Where the hell did Brandon kids find a wild deer running around.— Kyle Harrington (@kyleharringtonn) November 16, 2015
whoever hung a real deer by the flagpole, you're gross— k eazyyy (@xokayleegirllxo) November 16, 2015
The deer had been dead for about six hours, and didn't appear to have been alive when it was strung up the flagpole. Authorities said the deer had been shot.
The investigation will continue with officials monitoring social media and viewing school surveillance tape to try to "identify the characters" who strung the deer up.
"In this case, what may have started out as prank in the minds of students could end up becoming a criminal charge," McKinnon said.
This wouldn't be the first time.
The Tampa Bay area is rich in school prank lore.
Keeping with the big game theme, six Tarpon Springs High teens were stopped before carrrying out their plan to smuggle a 25-foot fiberglass shark into the school's courtyard in 1993. In 2008, five Bloomingdale High students stole a 400-lb. bronze bull with a plan to cart it out to the 50-yard-line at the start of a football game. They were foiled — and arrested.
Contact Katie Mettler at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3446. Follow @kemettler.