[UPDATE: The deer that was supposed to die but was then saved has now died before being transferred upstate. MORE BELOW]

The deer that happily frolicked in a Harlem park but was then sentenced to death by the city received a brief stay of execution by Governor Andrew Cuomo last night, in what appears to be the latest absurd twist in the never-ending political sniping between Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio. It's currently unclear if Cuomo's brave intervention will succeed—the mayor's office reiterated that the deer would certainly die this morning.

The singe antlered buck has charmed residents as he prowled Jackie Robinson Park since early December. Given the NY State ban on capturing and relocating deer (PDF), city agencies like the Parks Department and the NYPD kept a hands-off approach, recommending that people keep their distance. But this week the deer was spotted outside of the park, heading to the Polo Grounds public housing complex in one video.

The NY Times reported that the deer would be euthanized, and mayoral spokesperson Natalie Grybauskas said yesterday, "NYPD captured the deer after learning it was trapped within a fenced-off area in a residential development and posing a risk to public safety. The deer was brought to Animal Care & Control. We do not intend to release the deer back to the busy and dense borough of Manhattan." Enter the Cuomo administration:

James Allen, spokesperson for Governor Cuomo, said, "Over the last day, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation advised the City of New York that there are alternatives to euthanasia that they can consider, including relocation. The City has now captured the deer, and Governor Cuomo has directed DEC to offer assistance to the City to transport and find a new habitat for it immediately."

However, according to the Times:

The mayor’s office said no such conversation had taken place and referred back to the Harlem-or-death email sent by [state wildlife biologist] Scarlatelli, adding that state officials had specifically warned against the dangers of relocating deer to unfamiliar territory.

Officials with the conservation department also said Thursday night that while they did not generally recommend relocation, there was no ban on it and that the city could have taken the deer anywhere. Ms. Grybauskas said the state had given the city a very different impression and had specifically stated that deer could not be transported across county lines.

“Releasing the deer in Manhattan is clearly not safe for New Yorkers or the animal,” Ms. Grybauskas said in a statement late Thursday night, “and the state’s position was that euthanization was the preferred route. Later, the state reversed years of their own policy and offered to help relocate the deer. The state itself has said it is not safe to relocate deer, and so the only humane and safe recourse is to euthanize the deer, and that will happen in the morning.”

The NYPD captured the deer; it's unclear if the euthanasia has taken place.

Sarah Aucoin, Chief of Wildlife and Education, Dept. of Parks and Recreation, said:

Moving the deer to a new place would likely have caused the animal a great deal of suffering and would have been inhumane on many levels. Disorientation, trauma, injury and death are all possible results of relocating, and relocated deer have very low long-term survival rates. The extraordinarily low temperatures in our area combined with the time spent tranquilized and held in captivity would have made injury or death all the more likely. This deer in particular also appeared to be habituated to humans, and would likely have sought out humans (and human food) wherever it went, increasing the risk for vehicle collisions or human injury should the deer attempt to make physical contact with humans -- such as the buck who attempted to charge a man on Staten Island recently.

These decisions are never easy, and we do not take this lightly at all, but considering all of these factors, and with our top priorities being human safety and the most humane treatment of this deer, we think this is the best, safest, and most humane course of action.

Cuomo and de Blasio do not have a good relationship—the Daily News had a great, very inside look at how the men, once very close, are now enemies—so this deer is definitely a metaphor for something. Democratic strategist Lis Smith, who was briefly in the de Blasio administration until her relationship with Eliot Spitzer became too hot for City Hall, is decidedly Team Cuomo:

But stay tuned:

Sigh. This whole absurd distraction could have been avoided if NY was more welcoming to mountain lions.

Update 12:40 p.m.:

The city has relented in its case for killing the deer and will let the state take it upstate:

Still, even the state DEC is admitting this may not actually save the deer:

In the meantime, spokespeople for both the governor and the mayor are just dunking on each other for our amusement:

Update, 2:05 p.m.: The deer is dead, thanks to the humans:

Update 3 p.m.:

This is never going to end. (Except for the deer itself.)

Update 3:10 p.m.: Generally animal carcasses are handled by a vendor contracted by DSNY, but a city official tells us this deer can’t be used for venison because of the tranquilization drugs. (The NYPD shot the deer with a tranquilizer when they captured it.)