Dead deer dispute follows Waynesville officer's decision to shoot fawn in face
By: Darrell Todd Maurina
Posted: Saturday, June 12, 2010 5:36 pm
Waynesville police decided this deer was sick and needed to be shot.
WAYNESVILLE, Mo. (June 12, 2010) — Mid-Missouri Credit Union employees say they were trying to help a baby deer Wednesday morning, don’t understand why state conservation agents didn’t respond, and are even more upset that a Waynesville police officer shot the fawn in the head.
According to Mid-Missouri Credit Union teller Dorothy Brown, employees found the fawn in their rear parking lot when they arrived for work. The first employee arrived at 7:15 a.m., realized the fawn was walking around from the back parking lot with minimal traffic to the front parking lot where it could get hit by customers’ cars, and tried repeatedly to get help.
Seeing wildlife in the field behind Mid-Missouri Credit Union isn’t unusual, but Brown said she’d never before seen a fawn in the parking lot.
The deer was smaller than her puppy at home, Brown said, and she rapidly became concerned that a baby deer wouldn’t know enough to avoid traffic. She also repeatedly took water out to the deer to keep it from dehydrating.
“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s a baby deer!’” Brown said. “My coworkers tried to call the conservation agents; they didn’t return the call. They tried to call the highway patrol, nobody called back. The deer kept trying to go into the front parking lot … we didn’t want it to get run over.”
When neither conservation agents nor state troopers responded, the employees called Waynesville police.
A Waynesville police officer arrived about 10:30 a.m., but the response wasn’t what employees expected. According to Brown, the police officer decided the deer was sick and needed to be shot.
“We asked her not to shoot it to begin with. We asked her not to shoot it, we would pay the vet bill,” Brown said. “When she shot the deer the second time, the deer let out a god-awful scream. All of us were crying by this time. We didn’t call the Waynesville Police Department to have them shoot a deer in the face.”
Waynesville Police Chief Bob Carter declined to comment on his department’s actions.
“I’m not going to discuss it; it was appropriately taken care of by law enforcement,” Carter said.
Mayor Cliff Hammock couldn’t immediately be reached for comment, but Councilwoman Luge Hardman, the city’s mayor pro-tem, said in an internet message board posting that she’s received questions on the matter and made her own inquiries.
“There are some wild stories out there and I did not find anything to back them up,” Hardman wrote on the Pulaski County Web, a local community discussion site which hosts article comments for the Pulaski County Daily News but is under separate ownership and editorial control.
“The fawn would not get up and acted like it was sick,” Hardman wrote. “The Conservation Department was called and they did not respond. The first choice was to take the fawn to the woods, but it would not cooperate. I was told that the officer shot twice and the animal was killed instantly. Later, a doe was found run over and killed near the bridge, maybe the fawn's mother.”
Brown said that to her knowledge nobody from the credit union has yet formally complained to city police about their actions, but said a relative of one of the credit union employees has called the Missouri Attorney General’s office.
“They said unfortunately this shouldn’t happen, the officer shouldn’t have done what she did, but the attorney general deals with state issues and not city issues,” Brown said. “All of us are crying, this upset the whole doggone branch. How could this officer just blatantly shoot the deer in the face like that?”
Something needs to be done to prevent similar situations from happening again, Brown said.
“We were trying all morning to protect this baby deer, and she proceeded to laugh about it, her and the animal control lady. She got some sort of stick thing with a rope on it and swung the deer by the neck into her truck and took off,” Brown said. “It didn’t look sickly or ill to me, it just looked like a newborn baby deer to me. It was walking around, standing up, doing everything a newborn baby deer would do.”
Conservation Agent Aaron Pondrom, the district supervisor for four counties in the Ozark Region, which stretches south from Pulaski County to the Arkansas state line and includes 12 counties, confirmed that credit union personnel had tried to call him and to call Agent Casey Simmons, both of whom live in Pulaski County.
“It was unfortunate that we were not able to get the message in time,” Pondrom said. “I was at a meeting at our regional office in West Plains, and when I came to the desk I saw that there was a message … At that time I called Casey Simmons, the conservation agent in Pulaski County. It was his day off, but I was able to reach him and he said that he too had received a phone call and they contacted the Waynesville Police Department and they had already been to the scene and what has taken place had already taken place.”
Pondrom emphasized that he didn’t want to criticize the actions of another law enforcement agency without knowing the facts of the case, including whether the deer was sick and therefore a potential threat to the public.
“Each situation is different and it truly depends upon the circumstances, the environment the deer is in, and other factors such as if there are any threats to the animals,” Pondrom said.
However, Pondrom said his department regularly receives calls in late spring and early summer from residents worried about how to handle a fawn or young deer that shows up in their yards.
“Anytime people encounter any newborn wildlife, leave it alone. Animals are not abandoned; typically mother is around in the case of deer. One of their mechanisms to ensure survival for their fawn is to only come to them when needed and not draw attention by predators to the location. Often they will only come to the fawn when it’s time to feed it,” Pondrom said. “Even if the people bring the deer home, we advise them to take the animal back … People think human scent on the animal will keep the mother from coming back and that is not true.”
Deer which are sick or orphaned may have to be taken by conservation agents to an animal rehabilitation facility, Pondrom said.
The local animal rehabilitation facility is in Dixon, but Pondrom cautioned that while animal rehabilitation gives deer a chance at survival, it’s still a risk.
“One thing we have to remember is that the deer who make it to a rehabilitation facility have to be hand-fed until they are mature enough to make it to the wild,” Pondrom said. “These deer never obtain the survival skills they would get from their mother. They don’t learn foods to eat and where to find them, which predators to be afraid of. Unfortunately, a high percentage of those deer do not survive.”
The credit union employees did the right thing by calling his office for help, Pondrom said.
“The first attempt should be the conservation agent and then if they are not able to reach the agent, contact one of our offices located statewide and they will be able to provide assistance,” Pondrom said. “I feel bad that I was in a meeting in West Plains and could not take the call, but we have two people in Pulaski County and we try to be responsive to all calls. Unfortunately, due to manpower limitations, it’s not always easy.”