Should deer be pets?

January 18, 2012

Faith Outdoors

Pink turned to red Saturday as two young deer that frequented the home of a resident there were shot and killed by a Forest Lake police officer, according to a story about the incident in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The deer wore pink collars and were pictured in the paper with property owner Jeff Carpenter while they were still alive.

Carpenter’s outrage is detailed in the story, and it must have been unsettling for him to hear gunshots in his yard that morning as the officer killed both deer. Though Carpenter is quoted in the story as saying he did not consider the deer his pets, I am skeptical about his claim.

It was clear to me from reading the story that he was livid about the shooting of the deer. In my mind, there was an obvious emotional attachment to the whitetails. And, of course, there’s the pink collars. Generally, the only collars ever placed on wild animals are for research purposes.

In this case, I think Carpenter crossed a line he shouldn’t have, and his extreme anger over the deaths of the deer was a consequence. Too often in our culture, animals are treated like people (and sadly, people like animals). This leads to what we saw in this case — someone putting a collar on a wild animal.

For people of faith, we have to discipline our thoughts and emotions and be careful not to “humanize” animals or try to make a wild animal our pet. Though wild animals are beautiful and can bring us enjoyment, we must refrain from emotional attachments to any specific ones.

In other words, we should not go beyond simple admiration. Putting a collar on a deer and acting like it’s your pet is excessive. With the discovery of Chronic Wasting Disease only a year ago near Rochester, the state Department of Natural Resources is wise and right to monitor the deer herd closely.

And, in this case, the collars seemed to be an indication that the deer were captive, and the DNR has determined that captive deer present a higher risk for the spread of CWD. So, ultimately, the DNR, which received reports about the pink-collared deer and instructed Forest Lake police to shoot them, was simply being protective of the entire deer herd. We don’t need more cases of CWD in Minnesota.

I hope Carpenter cools off and doesn’t decide to escalate the conflict by filing a lawsuit. I think this incident could be a source of learning for those involved and those hearing about it in the media. I do feel there may have been a better way for police to have handled the problem (maybe tranquilize the deer rather than kill it, then try to determine whether it was captive or wild). I also think it would be beneficial for police, DNR staff and Carpenter to sit down and have a civil discussion about the matter.

That’s the way it should work. Unfortunately, rampant individualism makes such conversations all too rare. Instead, people get outraged over anyone who they feel is getting in the way of their personal enjoyment and then go on the offensive to beat down their perceived opponents.

Too bad. I think a lot can be learned from an incident like this, but I suspect Jeff Carpenter likely has no interest in that. The good news is that, with hundreds of thousands of deer in our state, he’ll have plenty more chances to enjoy them.

I offer just one small suggestion — leave the collars inside.




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About Dave Hrbacek

Staff photographer and writer for The Catholic Spirit. Also, avid outdoors enthusiast with a passion for hunting, fishing and photography. Married to Julie and have four children, three boys and a girl.

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