Deer safe to stay at Rochester facility, for now

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will not euthanize any more deer this winter at a wildlife rehabilitation center in Rochester, according to the facility’s owners.

An agreement with WDFW follows the Nov. 9 euthanizing of three fawns and an elk calf from the For Heaven’s Sake Animal Rescue & Rehabilitation facility

State wildlife managers said that the animals had become habituated to humans and unfit for release into the wild.

“The department has a responsibility to intercede when animals become too habituated to humans to survive in the wild,” said Eric Gardner, chief of WDFW’s Wildlife Program. “We removed four animals that displayed signs of severe habituation, but we’ve agreed to work with the owners to find a mutually acceptable solution for the other deer in their care.”

Gardner described the Supenskys, who have been licensed to operate their facility since 2010, as “caring people who work hard on behalf of the animals in their care.” But responding to reports from concerned citizens, a WDFW veterinarian and other wildlife specialists observed signs of habituation among the deer at their facility during a series of visits starting in August.

“Those animals showed that they had lost their fear of humans and were still looking to be fed at a time when they should have been weaned and avoiding people,” said Gardner, noting that state regulations generally prescribe that such animals be euthanized.

Under their agreement with WDFW, the Supenskys are required to minimize contact with the remaining deer, avoid hand-feeding them, and wean any of them that are still bottle-feeding.

Gardner noted that there are 30 licensed wildlife rehabilitation facilities in Washington, most of which are registered non-profit organizations that rely on donations and grants to cover their operating expenses.

He says that many of the animals that wind up in those facilities were “rescued” by well-meaning citizens who unwittingly separate the animals from their mothers.

“It’s never a good idea to remove a fawn from its natural environment,” Gardner said. “If you’re concerned about an animal’s situation, please call a WDFW regional office.”

For more information about wildlife rehabilitation facilities in Washington state, see WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/health/rehabilitation/

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