Genesee County Family Fights to Keep Pet Deer

By: News 10
By: News 10

A Genesee County family is fighting to keep their family pet after the DNR has told them it is illegal.

It is illegal to keep a wild animal in the state of Michigan, but the owners of a deer they call Lilly didn’t realize that when they rescued her as an orphaned fawn.

Five years ago, a female deer was hit outside of the family’s home, and gave birth to twin fawns before dying of her injuries. One of the fawns died, but the other one survived. The family asked a police officer who had responded to the injured animal call if they could try to save the fawn. He told them to go ahead and try, but that the deer probably wouldn't survive. The family nursed it back to health, and named the fawn ‘Lilly.’

The pet deer is now a member of the family, along with two dogs and three cats that the family owns. She sleeps on a futon, watches television with the family, and plays with the other pets in the back yard.

People in their neighborhood know about Lilly and haven’t minded her living there, but when some new people moved in, one of their guests noticed the deer and reported the family to the DNR. The DNR gave the family notice that keeping a deer is illegal. The DNR says that Lilly will have to be rehabilitated to live in the wild, or be put down.

The family has hired an attorney, and is fighting the ruling. They say that since she is domesticated, an exception should be made.

WNEM in Flint originally reported the story, and it has since been picked up by major media outlets like Huffington Post, ABC News, the Daily Mail UK, and others. Hundreds of people have emailed and posted to Facebook in support of Lilly the deer remaining with her human family.

The DNR posted a response on their Facebook page saying, " We want to update you on the deer that was taken in by a family in Genesee County. First, we are working with the family on options to resolve this situation, including finding a suitable place for the deer to reside, and those options are very limited and finding a suitable place is both expensive and difficult. We will keep you all posted on the outcome. Keeping a deer as a pet is illegal in Michigan. Second, we cannot emphasize enough that it is critically important that wildlife remain in the wild. Wildlife should never be taken out of its natural habitat -- doing so is dangerous and does nothing but create difficult and untenable situations for everyone involved. If you see a fawn in the wild that is alone, the odds are very high that it was NOT abandoned. It is normal deer behavior for a female deer to leave her fawn unattended in the wild for long periods of time. Why? Because fawns are born without an odor. A female deer will leave a fawn by itself so her scent does not attract a predator. Again, please help us avoid situations like this in the future by leaving wildlife in the wild. If you are certain the mother has been killed or is dead, then call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, who is specially trained to handle wildlife and care for it until it can be re-released into the wild. A list of rehabilitators is available at our website at http://www.michigandnr.com/dlr/."


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