The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently reported that it rescued a one-year-old doe that was being held captive in a residence in Western Michigan. According to officials with the agency’s Law Enforcement Division, the deer was first discovered by a passing motorist who saw the doe chained up to a stake in the lawn. Conservation officer Quincy Gowenlock arrived to investigate the sighting, and found that the homeowners had kept the deer like a pet for about a year. It even had a dog collar.
“Upon contacting the homeowners, they advised that the deer was found alone on the side of the road. They thought that the mother was killed so they took her in and kept her until she was big enough to fend for herself,” stated a bi-weekly report from the DNR.
While the homeowners may have had good intentions, experts say that residents should avoid helping fawns, even if they look abandoned. Newborn deer are often left alone by their mothers. It may make does look like bad moms, but this is actually a natural tactic that improves the chances of survival for both the mother and the fawn. Newborn deer have almost no scent and can easily hide in light vegetation, making them harder to find for predators. Their mothers, on the other hand, have a scent but stand a good chance at outrunning most predators. Due to these reasons, does often leave fawns mostly unattended for a short period after birth, but they never go far.
In this case, the responding officer told the homeowners that it was illegal to keep captive wildlife and ordered its release.
“The CO advised the subjects to remove the chain and dog collar from the deer and then chased it out of the yard across the road and into the field. The deer took off running in a dead sprint through the field and into the woods,” read the report.
Deer who grow up in captivity have an extreme disadvantage in the wild, but at one year old, the doe does stand a chance of surviving on her own. An unspecified enforcement action was taken against the homeowners.