Thursday, August 11, 2011
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I wanted to express my disappointment with the Associated Press story "Rufus is a dear to this family" that ran in The Albany Herald on Monday. Mr. O'Neal is a licensed rehabilitator and animal exhibitor. The tone of the article gave the impression that it is OK to possess deer as pets. Without permits, it is illegal.
White-tailed deer are wild animals and can be dangerous, especially when they lose any natural fear of humans. I can think of numerous cases where "pet" deer (does and bucks) attacked, injured, and in a few instances, killed people. People will often come across fawns during May-July that they assume the mother has abandoned because they don't see her. This is hardly ever the case. Female deer will leave their fawns unattended and return to them periodically to nurse.
In several weeks' time, the fawn will be old enough to accompany its mother. Fawns that are picked up by well-intentioned people should be brought back to the location (or safest nearby location) they were found immediately or within two or three days. Human scent will not deter the mother from finding her fawn. Only in the case that the mother is obviously dead or the fawn is injured should a fawn be brought to a licensed rehabilitator. A rehabilitator's goal is to release animals back into the wild, not to turn an animal into a pet. Mr. O'Neal possesses an exhibitor's permit which is why the deer was not returned to the wild.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Julia Robbins is a wildlife biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.