Shooting of two deer by police in Minnesota town sparks outrage from residentPolice shot and killed two young deer Saturday in the Forest Lake, Minn., yard where they had spent more than seven months, infuriating the homeowner who had taken the animals in.
By: Brady Gervais and Dave Orrick, St. Paul Pioneer Press / MCT
The couple who cared for two young deer shot and killed by Forest Lake, Minn., police in their yard Saturday were still infuriated two days later.
Jeff Carpenter said Monday that he thought concrete was cracking from the cold when he heard a loud "bang" about 7 a.m. outside his home at 10010 North Shore Trail. After he heard a second loud noise, he ran outside and found a police officer and two dead deer.
Carpenter said he went "ballistic," cursing at the officer and demanding to know why the deer were killed.
Carpenter said the deer had spent more than seven months in his yard and he and his wife, LeeAnn, had been taking care of them.
But a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources employee said Monday that the Carpenters should not have put identifying collars on the animals.
The collars were a signal that the deer could not be regarded as wild - and thus posed a potential health threat to wild animals.
Diseases can fester among animals in captivity, said Capt. Greg Salo, regional supervisor for the DNR's enforcement division.
"If he had contacted us, I think we could have corrected the problem without having to destroy them," Salo said. "The minute he took them as fawns and put collars on them, he sealed their fate."
Carpenter said the actions of the DNR and Forest Lake police were "an outrage."
"This could have been handled a hundred different ways, and every other way would have been better," he said.
Salo said the DNR began receiving reports several weeks ago that two deer with bright, fluffy collars were roaming the area. The agency checked with the Minnesota Board of Animal Health and found no deer farms had reported escaped animals.
The DNR's policy is to allow owners of domesticated deer 24 hours to recover them after they escape.
"After 24 hours, our protocol is we destroy them, and the carcasses become property of the state," Salo said. The state then tests the carcasses for disease. "With CWD (chronic wasting disease) near Rochester and bovine tuberculosis up north, we really have zero tolerance when it comes to protecting the wild herd from disease."
In an e-mail sent Jan. 3, the DNR asked Forest Lake police to kill the animals on sight. Help is often solicited from law enforcement agencies because the DNR has limited staff, Salo explained.
On Saturday morning, a Forest Lake police officer on patrol almost hit two deer with his squad car, according to a statement released Monday by the Forest Lake Police Department.
"The officer noticed the two deer were wearing collars as described in the Department of Natural Resources e-mail," the statement said.
The officer used his shotgun to kill one deer about 10 yards off the road and followed a second deer to "a safe location" before killing that one, the statement said.
"Both deer were dispatched approximately 50-60 yards from the residence," the statement said. "The photos that were circulated depict the location of the deer near a garage. The deer had been transported to that location to assist in loading it into the Conservation Officer's vehicle."
The statement refers to an e-mail Jeff Carpenter sent to a number of people, including some members of the media, that was widely forwarded over the weekend. The text of the e-mail, as well as the attached pictures of the deer, dead and alive, became the content of a YouTube video.
"It's a bad set of circumstances," Salo said. "The deer were on his property, which makes sense because of what we know now. If I could have picked a different place to kill them, I would have."
Salo said if Carpenter had called the DNR, the agency would have advised him to cut the collars off the animals.
Carpenter said he and his wife affixed collars to the animals to differentiate them from one another. He said the deer arrived at his home in June. He estimated they were a few days old at the time and suspected their mother had been hit by a car, leaving them orphaned.
A deer the Carpenters later named "Abbie" showed up first, Jeff Carpenter said. She had entered the garage through a dog door and was in a kennel. The Carpenters released Abbie to the wooded area behind their house only to find her back in the kennel that evening. They later found another deer, which they named "Pinkie," for her pink hoof, in the wooded area. As Pinkie got older, her pink hoof, a distinguishing feature, turned black.
Carpenter said they didn't want the deer to become pets, so they fed them but let them come and go. But, he said, they were in the yard almost daily.
Carpenter questioned the DNR's statement that neither DNR officials nor Forest Lake police knew the deer were connected to him or his property, saying the officer had to walk onto his land to shoot the deer.
"There's no way in hell they can justify what they did on our property," he said. "They should be apologizing."
Feeding wild deer that wander onto your property isn't illegal in Minnesota, although wildlife officials frown on it because it generates unnatural habits.
Taking in fawns is also frowned upon - often because the mother is, in fact, healthy and nearby. A mother deer will lead a perceived threat away from fawns, which will curl up in a ball and stay put. Often, the mother will leave them for an entire day.
Salo said that behavior often leads members of the public to believe a mother has been killed or has abandoned her fawns, but the DNR advises people to leave the young animals alone.