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Couple says DNR plans to kill Bucky

February 19, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

The 30-hour period between Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday night contained a full circle of emotions that ended on a sour note for the Hagerstown-area couple who have been caring for a young deer since Sunday.

Kevin and Starla Hall believed early Wednesday that the slightly injured deer, which they named Bucky, was going to be nursed back to health at a state facility and released. They now say authorities plan to kill the deer by this afternoon.

Meanwhile, Bucky continued to lay on the Hall's Antietam Drive porch behaving more calmly than many household pets and most wild animals.

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Kevin Hall said he was told by Cpl. John Milbourne, regional investigator for the Maryland Natural Resources Police, that the animal would be taken into custody and destroyed this afternoon if it was still at the home.

Milbourne declined to comment on the issue while at the Hall home and asked them to speak with him without a reporter present. Later Wednesday evening, Milbourne again declined to comment and said information on the case would be released exclusively through Department of Natural Resources Public Information Officer Heather Lynch.

Lynch could not be reached through her pager and cellular phone late Wednesday evening.

Kevin Hall said the news was devastating.

"He's tame, he's healthy, he's friendly - and the state says he has to die," Hall said.

The Halls found the deer in the middle of the street near Godlove's Liquor Store on Sunday afternoon and took it into their home. They said it appeared dazed and slightly injured but has continued to improve since they gave it a temporary home on their porch.

Hall said attempts to let Bucky free have been unsuccessful, and the deer has continued to return to the home.

Department of Natural Resources representatives have said the department does not rehabilitate injured wild animals.

Hall said he just wants to find someone who can legally care for the deer in a wild animal-friendly environment because he is afraid it will be shot or hit by a car if released.

"All I want for him is to be well and wild," he said. "It was never my attention to keep him. We love deer; they need to be in the wild."

Hall said he was encouraged by the large amount of public support for Bucky. He said the phone at the home rung almost constantly Tuesday.

"There has been an unbelievable outpouring of help and offers from the community," he said. "People (were) saying, 'I know a place' or 'I'll take him.' It just warms your heart."

Hall said several official refuges and petting zoos in the area could not take the deer. He said places either did not take deer, did not have space for the animal or were outside the state.

Hall said authorities told him he could not legally take the animal across the state line.

Then, the Halls got what they thought was good news.

Hall said Milbourne, during conversations Tuesday evening and Wednesday afternoon, proposed the deer be taken to Billmeyer Wildlife Area in Allegheny County for an evaluation by a state veterinarian and, if healthy, put through a program to reintroduce the deer to the wild.

However, Hall said his conversation with Milbourne at the Antietam Drive home Wednesday evening, which he believed was to finalize the rehabilitation plan, did not go according to that plan. He said Milbourne said the animal was to be picked up by department representatives, euthanized and tested for diseases.

Hall also said Milbourne told him that if he attempted to stop representatives from taking the deer today, he would be arrested.

"I was excited that he was going to get a checkup and a chance," Hall said. "He's not going to get checked. They're going to kill him."

Hall said the only way for Bucky to not be taken and euthanized is to make sure the deer is not inside the Antietam Drive home or on the property today.

"The deer won't be here," he said.

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