The Witchita Eagle

Kansas Family Upset with Game Wardens for Shooting Their Pet Deer

Internet lights up over "family pet" being shot by game wardens in Kansas.

A family is upset with some Kansas game wardens after they shot a deer the family was treating as a pet.

The mule deer doe, which they named Faline, (a reference to the character in the Disney movie Bambi) had been hanging around with the Mcgaughey family for almost two years. "Her being domesticated was her own doing," Kim Mcgaughey told the Wichita Eagle. "I never kept her from going away and being with other deer."

The doe would actually play with her family and 8-year-old grandson. They even let it into the house. The family described the doe as acting like a large dog, even playing with the other pets.

But keeping a wild animal in captivity is against the law in Kansas. After a Facebook post tipped off authorities the family had a deer living with them, Mcgaughey was ticketed for possessing wildlife without a permit.

And the same day, December 19, game wardens shot the doe in the family's yard. Taryn Mcgaughey, Kim's daughter, captured video of some of the argument between the family and wardens and the animal eventually being shot.

Kim told the paper she had talked to a game warden two years earlier who said she was legal as long as the deer was not confined to an enclosure.

But the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Commission, while admitting it wasn't a decision anyone enjoyed, has defended their decision.

"Unfortunately once they've become imprinted on people, (euthanasia) is almost always the final outcome," Mark Rankin, law enforcement assistant director for the wildlife department told the Wichita Eagle. "Our officers on the scene felt (shooting the deer) was their only option."

The Mcgaughey family believes the officers were too hasty in their actions. The doe was shot 45 minutes after the ticket was issued to Kim.

"After having her 22 months, they couldn't even give us 12 hours to try to take her to a sanctuary," Taryn Mcgaughey said. "They said they were worried about our safety, but cats and dogs carry more diseases than any deer ever would."

The family's attempts to find a zoo to take her in that time period failed.

But the game wardens didn't want to take a chance on the deer not being there if they came back later. Rankin told the Wichita Eagle there were also concerns about diseases like chronic wasting disease and human safety.

At least two people have been killed in Kansas by pet deer in the past.

While some believe the officers were just doing their job, some are thinking things could have been handled better.

"All of our people have a real heart for wildlife," Wildlife and Parks Secretary Robin Jennison told the paper. "These things are never easy, but I think we really need to come up with policy that better handles these kinds of things."

These types of high-profile incidents involving domesticated or semi-domesticated deer seem to be happening more and more often. Just last month, there was huge outcry after a young buck that wandered into Manhattan died of stress in animal control custody as the city and state argued about what to do.

What do you think? Should the game wardens have explored more options first? Or was this the right move in this situation?