Nancy Reese, of Morganton, N.C., rescued a fawn from the side of road last June and has cared for it ever since, helping it to regain strength.
Now, wildlife officers are going to take the animal from her property to euthanize it.
“It’s a wild animal. And it’s supposed to be wild,” Wildlife Resources Commission Sergeant Richard Tucker told ABCNews.com. “She never called us. She never called to try to find a rehabilitator or anything. She raised it as a pet. She deprived the deer from being a deer.
“She can’t have the deer. We’re going to take the deer. I can assure you of that. Euthanizing is the only action we have. This deer now relates food to humans. Especially with it being a buck deer and releasing it, and having that possibility of it being very familiar with humans and having a lot of human contact, in a year or two it could hurt someone.”
But Reese doesn’t see it that way.
“I went down there and it had blow flies all over it,” she said. “So I brought it home with me and wiped him off and had to force feed him and gave him the bottle.”
The deer is now “fat as mud,” Reese says.
Reese believes the deer, who she named Buddy and keeps in a pen in her front yard, is now 7 months old. But not everyone who knows about Buddy is approving of him being on her property.
“A lot of people know I have this deer. Somebody called and told on me,” she said.
It is illegal in North Carolina to keep a deer in captivity, so wildlife officers paid Reese a visit.
“The very first time they came up here they said, ‘Ma’am, you have put this deer in harm’s way and now it’s probably going to have to be euthanized,” Reese explained.
But Reese, 51, has grown quite attached to Buddy and is not willing to give up the animal without a fight.
“I was just wanting to raise it back and turn it loose. There’s nobody up here. I live in the sticks. I was going to let him loose here,” she said. “He has brought so much happiness to my life. I’m disabled and I live here in the mountains by myself and he’s just helped me so much.”
Tucker, however, says the animal will eventually be too overwhelming for Reese.
“If we had not found out about the deer next year when it’s a year and half old, it would have been more than she can handle,” said Tucker. “She really would have put herself in danger. So that’s the issue we have.”
“I raised it all this time, what’s the harm of keeping him here?,” Reese asked. “I let him out of the cage, we play together in the front yard and he’s never hurt me. He’s never done anything wrong. He is just so sweet.”
“She tried to do something good, but at the same time, it wasn’t for her, it was for the deer,” Tucker explained.
Reese isn’t the only animal-lover under scrutiny for rescuing and rehabilitating a deer.
Jeff and Jennifer Counceller, rescued an injured fawn more than two years ago and nursed it back to health at their Connersville, Ind., home. But the couple is now facing possible jail time and fines after state officials charged them with a misdemeanor for harboring the animal.
Jeff Counceller, a police officer in Connersville, and his wife were charged with unlawful possession of a deer, a misdemeanor that punished to its fullest extent could put the Councellers in jail for up to 60 days and cost them up to $2,000 in fines.
However today, the Department of Natural Resources is asking the charges against the Councellers be dismissed.
“After reviewing the matter, Gov. Mike Pence asked the DNR to reevaluate the case,” a press release from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources stated. “As a result of the governor’s request, the DNR has re-examined the case and is seeking dismissal of the charges.”