WLWT NEWS, MILFORD -- The Ohio Department Natural Resources has told a local woman she faces criminal charges if investigators can't locate a baby deer that was found in a residential area and returned to the wild.
Leslie Cain told News 5 she moved the baby deer from a neighborhood near Milford to a friend's farm in rural Kentucky after neighbors asked for help from the public to save the baby deer.
“My heart, it tugged at my heart because I thought, 'This deer is going to die if somebody doesn’t take it'," she said.
The fawn, which neighborhood girls named "Sunny," stumbled out of the woods two and a half weeks ago after it was apparently orphaned by its mother.
It cried for days before neighbors worried it would die without food, and started to feed it goat's milk from a baby bottle.
Sunny slept under Ron Statz's rose bush for four days while Statz fed it and neighbors called around looking for ways to return it to the wild. But the Ohio Department of Natural Resources told them it was against the law to move an orphaned fawn for fear of spreading disease. They were instructed to return it to the woods near their homes and "let nature take its course."
Neighbors interpreted that as being told to let the fawn die, which they did not want to do. After News 5 told the story of neighbors' attempts to find Sunny a home, dozens of people called and e-mailed to offer assistance.
Leslie Cain was the one who ended up finding Sunny a home.
Cain found a friend of a friend who lived on a farm in Nicholas County, Ky. who nursed injured and orphaned animals back to health.
Now, Cain said, investigators from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources have contacted her and told her she needs to tell them where Sunny is so they can euthanize it and test it for disease.
If Cain does not turn over the deer, ODNR said, she faces criminal charges.
"I didn’t know the laws or anything. I didn’t stop to think about that. It was just an emotional decision," she said. "If I would have known the laws, yes, I would have made a different deicision."
Cain said she wants to cooperate, but she doesn't think she can locate the farm again because she went at night. A lawyer told her she faces misdemeanor charges that carry the possibility of jail time.
"You know, I thought this was over and done with. I had done my duty that I felt was the right thing and now two weeks later, I find out I’m being investigated," she said.
Statz got a call from the ODNR investigator, too.
"It was obvious to me he was going to be very persistent in getting to the bottom of this, what he called an investigation," he said.
"While I realize they have a legal right to do what they are doing because it's the law and they're there to uphold the law, I just think it's extreme," Statz said. "It's regretful because I know it's upset her greatly, because she felt and I feel that she did the moral thing in trying to save this fawn."
"I think they’re going too far. There’s people that get murdered on the streets around here everyday. And that’s what they need to be spending the taxpayers' money on. And I think everyone will agree with me," Cain said.
Wildlife officials said they hoped to prevent any diseases from spreading to other deer through droppings.
"We’re trying to minimize the spread of communicable diseases such as chronic wasting disease, or CWD, from animals being moved considerable distances from where they originated," said Dave Kohler, Wildlife Management Supervisor for District 5.
Kohler said the majority of rehabilitated deer don’t survive in the wild, so allowing fawns like Sunny to be rescued jeopardizes hundreds of thousands of other deer.
“I understand why people are concerned about individual animals, but as wildlife managers we need to be responsible for species as a whole,” Kohler said.
Tags: woman, faces, criminal charges, saving, deer, fawn, ohio, state, seeks, euthanization
Location: Milford, Ohio, United States (load item map)
Marked as: approved
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