We share our world with many wild animals. Many of us are visited by animals in our own yards, including deer, moose, bears and even the occasional seal.
While it is nice to peacefully coexist with these creatures, it’s important to remember that they aren’t your pets — most of the time it’s better to leave wildlife alone, both for your sake and the animal’s, and keep your distance.
But recently, officials in Jefferson County, Missouri were alarmed after a wild deer was found with the word “PET” painted on its body. The deer, a 2-year-old buck, also had a collar around its neck.
It was apparent that someone had gotten attached to the wild animal and decided to claim him as their pet. “Somebody most likely took that deer out of the wild as a fawn and tried to keep it as a pet,” Missouri Department of Conservation Captain Scott Corley told McClatchy News.
The photo was posted on Facebook earlier this week by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, and was met with divided reactions.
Some were horrified that anyone would tag a wild animal this way, and said it would make kids think it was safe to touch and pet the deer. Others defended the move, saying that the deer’s “owners” were trying to keep him from being shot by hunters.
But authorities warn that, regardless of the intention, keeping a wild deer as a “pet” is a bad idea for all involved.
“Obviously they thought they were keeping it safe. Maybe going into hunting season they thought painting ‘pet’ on it, somebody won’t shoot it if it comes by,” Corley said. “That’s just not a good idea by any means.”
Corley said that because of the human interaction, the buck has “lost its fear of humans.” And during mating season, male deer become more aggressive, which can make for a dangerous combination. He said that if the buck becomes aggressive towards humans he may be euthanized.
“He can be aggressive and it can cause problems… The last thing we want to happen is for somebody to get gored with an antler,” Corley told McClatchy News.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office also wrote that deer may carry diseases including Chronic Wasting Disease.
“Wild animals should not be considered pets, and particularly deer should not be moved from their habitat as MDC [Missouri Department of Conservation] works on Chronic Wasting Disease,” they wrote on Facebook. “Orphan wildlife should be reported to your local MDC office or Conservation Agent.”
“We’re concerned with the health of the deer,” Corley said. “And nowadays since we have issues with chronic wasting disease and other disease issues, [interaction] is not safe for humans and it’s not in the best interest of the animal’s welfare.”
Deer are beautiful animals and its understandable that people would want to look after them like pets, but it may actually be in the animal’s best interest to let them be.
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