Taking deer from the wild is illegal and dangerous

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Trying to turn this deer into a pet is just flat WRONG!In the past year, wildlife authorities say, there have been five instances in which “pet” deer, illegally removed from the wild, have turned up in neighborhoods and parks in Northwest Florida.

Not only is the practice of taking deer out of the wild to make pets out of them illegal, they say; deer, as they grow, present a serious danger to people.

In the most recent incident, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Investigator Jerry Shores had a call from park personnel at Falling Waters State Park in early July when a young buck deer with velvet-covered antlers showed up with the word “PET” shaved into its hair.  The 70- to 80-pound deer liked to approach people and be fed.

“It’s pretty obvious someone had tried to make a pet of it, then when it got bigger they either released it or dumped it in the park,” Shores said.  “The problem is when its antlers harden in a couple of months, its disposition can change in a second and he can attack people.”

Shores said he’s still trying to determine where the deer came from.  The responsible person will face charges.

On May 8, a Santa Rosa County woman took her 4-year-old daughter outside to pet a doe sporting a collar around its neck. The deer had walked up to an Allenton home.  Everything seemed fine at first, but without warning, the deer went up on its back legs and began flailing away with its front legs at the child.

“The little girl got knocked down, but fortunately, she wasn’t seriously injured,” Shores said.

Although the deer ran off into the woods, it came back later.  FWC officers were able to track the deer to a nearby residence, where the owner admitted taking the deer out of the wild last summer.

Shores said the homeowner was charged with allowing captive wildlife to endanger human safety.

Arlo Kane is an FWC wildlife biologist and knowledgeable about deer behavior.  He said many people don’t realize deer, as they grow and mature, become dangerous.

“Bucks, particularly during the fall, have a high level of the male hormone testosterone, and in the wild they fight and spar with other deer.  In captivity or as a pet, a human becomes the opponent,” Kane said.  “There are many, many accounts of people being seriously injured or killed by these deer they consider pets.” 

Even does in captivity can be trouble.

“Does will stand up on their hind legs, as was the case in Santa Rosa County, and flail with their front legs.  A child, or even an adult, who is unaware can be injured.  The hooves are basically a doe’s only weapon.”

A huge problem now is what to do with pen-raised deer.  Years ago, most state parks had few deer and were willing to take them but that’s no longer the case.  Because of concerns about safety and liability issues, fewer places are willing to take them.

Anyone who has information about deer being illegally kept as pets, or about other violations of wildlife or fish laws, can call the Wildlife Alert hotline at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922). Callers can remain anonymous and may be entitled to a cash reward.