LITTLE ROCK (AGFC) – Capturing deer as pets will soon become a thing of the past in Arkansas.
New regulations adopted by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission make it illegal to capture deer in the wild.
There is a grandfather clause in the new rules. Deer already in captivity can be kept. No new deer "pets" can be taken after July 1.
The numbers of deer kept as pets in Arkansas are not large, but they have a number of potential problems, according to AGFC wildlife biologists. The threat of disease is one, and AGFC and hunting land managers are working diligently to prevent chronic wasting disease in Arkansas. The disease has not been found in the state, and bans are in place against importing live deer and other cervids (deer family) from outside Arkansas's borders.
Another reason for the new regulation is individuals keeping deer in unsanitary and inhumane conditions, according to AGFC deer biologist Cory Gray. "Deer should not be treated like dogs or other pets and kept in small pens without adequate space to roam. They are very sensitive to E. Coli and Salmonella, which originate due to unsanitary conditions," Gray said.
Pet deer also can be dangerous at times, especially bucks during breeding season. A number of persons have been seriously injured from attacks of pet deer, even persons who have been known to the deer for several years.
Every year, deer fawns are found in grassy and weedy areas, even hay fields, by persons who mistakenly think the babies have been abandoned by their mothers. In reality, wildlife biologists say, the mothers are out of sight but nearby. "A newborn fawn spends nearly 100 percent of its time hidden while the mother is feeding to build energy for nursing. Typically, this is when people come across these fawns and assume that the mother has abandoned the newborn," Gray explained. "Within a month, the fawn will be following the mother nearly everywhere she goes," he added.
In addition, these "abandoned" fawns begin grazing by the end of two weeks, and will start the weaning process at about a month. The does should have the fawns completely weaned by 10 weeks, but occasional nursing may be observed. Leave the deer alone, Gray says. "When you leave, the mother will come back to the baby," he said.
In rare instances, a mother deer may fall prey to vehicles on highways or to some other cause, leaving a fawn unable to care for itself. In these cases, a wildlife rehabilitator should be contacted. Licensed rehabilitators are listed online at agfc.com. The orphaned deer should be left in place until help arrives unless there is immediate danger from animals like roaming dogs.