CLARINGTON - It seems the controversy over the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' decision to put down a tame deer in Clarington has not ended since the animal's death.
The deer, nicknamed Bucky, was killed on Wednesday by a wildlife officer. It had previously been roaming around town for months, playing with adults and children alike and eating food from residents' hands. Unfortunately, it was also eating from one resident's garden, and a complaint brought Bucky to the attention of ODNR.
ODNR cited public safety hazards as the reason for dispatching Bucky.
Photo Provided / SANDY POTTS
BUCKY, THE friendly deer that was living in Clarington, is shown in a photo taken one day before he was killed by a wildlife officer.
An online petition calling for the removal of the wildlife officer who fired the fatal shots popped up online on Thursday. People from all over the world, not just Clarington, have signed. As of Friday evening, the number of signatures was at nearly 2,000. The goal is 5,000.
The petition can be found at www.yousign.org/clarington-deer. It reads, in part:
"We cannot understand why a wildlife officer would be so determined to take the life of an innocent and sweet deer. Instead, the deer could have easily been relocated to a facility where it could have been safe and enjoyed life...We are talking about a deer, not a tiger or a bear! In addition, how is the wild animal going to remain in the wild, since it was destroyed without no reason by a wildlife officer, who is supposed to protect these animals in the first place?"
The latter part of that statement was written in response to ODNR's previous statement that wild animals are better off in the wild. The petition was formed by Helen Sanders, who did not respond to requests for comment.
Clarington resident Sandy Potts said she has heard from animal activists as far away as California. Potts' own petition, which garnered 700 signatures in an attempt to save Bucky's life, had no effect on ODNR's plans and did not reach the desk of Gov. John Kasich, as intended, before the deer was killed.
Some Facebook pages, such as "Deer Defenders of Ohio" and "Puppy Doe - a Voice for Animals" have expressed anger that Bucky was killed. ODNR's own Facebook page is filled with posts from users criticizing how the situation was handled. A post on "Deer Defenders" even goes so far as to claim ODNR did not have the authority to shoot a tame deer, citing Ohio Revised Code.
A request for ODNR to comment on this particular claim went unanswered. A representative simply reiterated ODNR's previous statement via email.
"Wild animals, even those that appear tame, are unpredictable by nature and are capable of becoming aggressive and dangerous at any time and particularly when it involves a buck during mating season. The outcome of this situation is an unfortunate reminder that it is in the best interest of humans and animals that wild animals remain in the wild."
ODNR reps also declined to comment on the petition's goal of having the wildlife officer fired.
On the petition's website, which misidentifies Bucky as female, many commenters asked why Bucky could not be relocated rather than killed. ODNR District Four Manager Tim Parrett has previously said that the deer could be carrying disease, which could be harmful to any nearby herds. He also said there was no way to test for disease while the deer was still alive. Parrett called the deer's friendly behavior "abnormal and strange."
After it was killed, the deer was transported to the Department of Agriculture in Reynoldsburg to be tested. Results could take weeks.
Online commenters were also upset that Bucky was shot in front of two young girls who had pet and fed him. The girls' mother, Shannon Lee, has stated they were not warned before shots rang out. Parrett's official report states that the wildlife officer did warn bystanders before shooting the deer in the public park near the edge of town.
Lee's neighbor, Jim Greenlee, said he spoke to the officer.
"I asked him not to, but he said it had to be done," Greenlee said. He went on to say the deer lay twitching after one shot, and he told the officer to "put him out of his misery" before a second shot was fired.
Greenlee called the petition's goal "a bit extreme," as the wildlife officer was just doing what he was supposed to do. He also acknowledged that, during the mating season, rut could make the deer dangerous.
Warner may be reached at mwarner@ timesleaderonline.com.