A Park City woman found a fawn lying motionless on a Prospector trail last weekend. Out of compassion for its suffering, she told KPCW she took the young deer to her home, planning to call authorities who would likely euthanize the animal. She contacted the Park City Police Department, the DWR and an animal rehabilitation organization. She was issued a citation for taking the animal out of the wild and bringing it home.
Amy Roberts was hiking last weekend and when she found the fawn lying motionless on the path, she thought it was dead until she noticed it was breathing. She says she did not feel right about leaving it thinking it would be run over by a mountain biker, starve to death or be pecked to death by birds.
“Compassion spoke louder than reason. I knew that it was not a newborn. Oftentimes a very, very young fawn will often play dead, if you will. They don’t move at all in order to evade predators while their mama’s out foraging for food. That was not the case. The animal was clearly in distress, clearly very sick and it was at least two months old.”
She called a wildlife rehab organization in Ogden and they told her it was illegal in Utah to rehab a deer or any large game animal. They advised her to put it back or contact the Division of Natural Resources to have it euthanized. Over the next 24 hours, she said she called the Park City Police Department multiple times, a local vet and the Division of Wildlife Resources.
“You know what, I can’t in good conscience, looking at this thing, it is very sick. It is struggling to breath. It is probably in some level of pain. I cannot, in good conscience hike it back up a hill, three miles in the heat of the day and leave it where I found, it to die a painful death. It doesn’t make sense.”
The fawn died on Sunday and Roberts contacted the DWR for guidance on how to dispose of it. She said she didn’t know if they would want to test the animal for a wasting disease that has been killing young deer in Wyoming. When they arrived to take the carcass on Monday, the DWR officer issued a $400.00 class B misdemeanor citation for removing the animal from the wild.
“And the citation that he gave me essentially says that I acted with willful, knowingly reckless behavior to endanger an animal.”
Chief of Law Enforcement with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Rick Olson says they do some seasonal public outreach to try to educate people about what to do if a baby elk or deer is found in the wild. He says it is illegal to remove any wild animal, dead or alive without the appropriate license.
"A lot of times, once it’s touched, depending on how young it is, if they are touched by humans, even if they go try to put that animal back, it’s still going to have the scent on it. And, sometimes, the mother will take care of it and sometimes she will abandon it.”
Olson says most of the citations the DWR officer’s issue are for fishing and taking more than the posted limit. But he says sometimes people want to take a wild animal home as a pet, which he says is against the law.
“I don’t know if this applied in this particular lady’s case. But it is common for a baby fawn deer to be left on its own while the mother is off out in the woods. So, what a lot of people mistake for injury is just what is bread into the animal, is a safety mechanism to stay safe.”
Olson says the citation is like any other criminal case. It’s in the courts and the county prosecutor and judge will handle the case at this point.
“Our officers have a lot of discretion. If the individual truly did not know any better, it’s common that they could get a warning citation instead of a criminal citation.”
Roberts sent a letter to the DWR registering a complaint stating that the officer, McKay Braley, who wrote the citation, let his ego get in the way of both doing his job and behaving in a reasonable or considerate manner. She claims his manner was belligerent and belittling towards her as she was working to resolve the problem of the sick fawn. Olsen from the DWR says he can not comment on the case.
Roberts provided photos of the fawn which can be found on KPCW.org