Officers with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) responded to a bizarre wildlife report recently near the rural community of Festus, about 35 miles southwest of St. Louis. The viral photo that sparked their investigation shows a young 8-point buck with a drooping collar around its neck and the word “PET” festooned across its rib cage in capital letters.
“Somebody most likely took that deer out of the wild as a fawn and tried to keep it as a pet and put a collar on it,” MDC Captain Scott Corley told McClatchy News for an article in the Belleville News-Democrat. Corley went on the say that the attempted domestication could facilitate the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease. “[It’s] not safe for humans, and it’s not in the best interest of the animal’s welfare,” he warned.
The photo was shared by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office on Sunday, October 8. “Wild animals should not be considered pets,” the post reads, “and … deer should not be moved from their habitat.” According to Corely, the MDC responded to reports of the oddly-adorned deer back in late September after fielding a phone call from a local land owner. Wildlife agents have not been able to locate the deer, the Belleville News-Democrat reports.
The practice of taking in fawn whitetails and attempting to raise the wild animals as at-home pets might be more common than some people realize. Every spring, state wildlife agencies across the country urge residents to leave vulnerable fawns alone.
“How would Bambi’s life have turned out if, after his mother’s death, a sympathetic human had taken him in? The ending probably wouldn’t be as happy as you might expect,” the MDC said in a press release. “Abandoned wildlife are typically harmed by human efforts to rescue them. In fact, trying to help these animals generally decreases their chances of survival.”