QUANTICO, Va. -- Call it a playground for Bambi and G-Men, where imaginary criminals are hunted and deer are the spectators.
The 547-acre FBI Academy, where some of the nation's best marksmen fire off more than 1 million bullets every month, happens to be one of the safest places for deer during hunting season.
The property on the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Va., is home to some of the FBI's most elite forces and training programs as well as a de facto wildlife refuge where deer, fox, wild turkeys, groundhogs and vultures roam fearless and free.
In recent years, a black bear was spotted running across a parking lot, and a groundhog cornered an FBI agent coming out of the cafeteria, hoping to score some human food, FBI spokesman Kurt Crawford said. Turkey vultures are often seen perched atop the 500,000-square-foot national crime lab where the FBI analyzes evidence, including the remains of the former al-Qaida leader in Iraq.
The wild animals are as much a fixture at the academy as the hostage rescue team and criminal profilers.
The most common furry friends on the sprawling campus some 30 miles outside Washington are the deer, a regular at the shooting ranges, driving courses and physical training trails.
On a December afternoon, deer grazed above one of the academy's 16 practice shooting ranges. They stood just 15 feet away from the paper targets. Nearby, shots popped loudly from a Colt M4 Carbine rifle, and the white-tailed deer did not flinch.
"They're pretty immune to the sound," said Sean Boyle, supervisory special agent bomb technician and principal firearms instructor for the Critical Incident Response Group based at the academy.