Fawn in the woods

Wildlife should be left where it belongs, in the wild.

An Indiana family who bonded with a baby deer it found created a stir when wildlife officials ordered it released.

The controversy was reminiscent of the one stirred up over a pet raccoon in Gallatin a few years ago. It was confiscated and released by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

In Indiana, as in Tennessee and most other states, it is illegal to keep a wild animal. When attention was called to the Hoosier deer, the state’s game management officials took it away to be returned to the wild. The media coverage created an uproar from people who considered the removal of the deer to be heartless.

The same thing happened when the TWRA ordered the release of a raccoon kept by a man in Gallatin. The agency was portrayed negatively in much of the media coverage.

The no-wild-pets rule is in place for two good reasons – for the welfare of the wild animal and the safety of its keeper.

In the case of the Indiana deer, the family said the fawn was found with no mother in sight, so they “adopted it” and it gradually became tame.

Most likely the fawn was not abandoned; the mother was simply hiding nearby, waiting for the intruders to leave before returning.

No wild animal is truly tamed. Wild animals are genetically programmed to live in the wild, and seldom adjust to captivity. Male deer in particular can become dangerous as adults, known to attack and injure their keepers.

There is also the risk of diseases being transmitted to humans and domestic pets. Racoons in particular are prone to carry the rabies virus, and a bite or scratch can be serious.

Another concern of wildlife officials is that if keeping wild animals for pets were legal, commercial trafficking would result. Some of the more cuddly species would be captured and sold.

Once the owner tires of the upkeep or is unable to continue it and releases the animal back into the wild, it lacks the skills to survive. The pet deer in Indiana was taken to a wildlife center to be re-acclimated, but even so, it’s chances are not good.

If a well-meaning person comes upon a baby animal – especially a fawn – and wants to help it, the best thing to do is leave it alone. Chances are the mother is watching and waiting nearby.

Placing it in captivity is not only illegal, it’s ill-advised and will likely have a bad outcome.

Wildlife should be left in the wild.