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DNR won't attempt to find Bucky

February 21, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources will not charge a couple that harbored a tame deer and will not try to find the deer, which was released to the wild, a department spokeswoman said.

"They can only be charged if the deer is in their possession," spokeswoman Heather Lynch said Friday.

She said that speculation that the DNR still might try to find the deer and test it is not true.

"Our officers have other things to do," she said. "That sounds absurd to me that we'd be driving around looking for Bucky the deer."

Kevin and Starla Hall took in the young deer Sunday after finding it wandering in their Antietam Drive neighborhood, northeast of Hagerstown. They named it Bucky.

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As the couple tried to find a safe permanent place in the wild or at a preserve for the deer, DNR officials warned them that the deer should be killed and tested for disease.

One possibility would be chronic wasting disease, a fatal neurological disease, Bob Beyer, the associate director for the department's game management program, said at a press conference Thursday.

Weight loss, listlessness, blank facial expression and repetitive walking in set patterns are signs of chronic wasting disease, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

When the Halls found the deer, it was docile and paced back and forth, letting people pet it, the couple said early in the week.

Thursday morning, Kevin Hall and two other men drove to the Potomac Fish & Game Club near Williamsport and released the deer.

Hall and a legion of supporters who visited his home and contacted The Herald-Mail throughout the week said it made no sense to kill the deer. The deer's plight made national news, including a live segment on NBC's "Today" show.

Beyer said Friday that most people don't know how to care for wildlife, which is one reason they shouldn't try. The enormous strength that deer have is another.

The DNR was hearing bits and pieces about the situation that may not have been correct, which made the problem worse, Beyer said. Early on, he heard that the Halls were feeding the deer wafer cookies and cat food.

Kevin Hall told The Herald-Mail Thursday that the couple fed the deer corn, oats, grain, molasses, hay, carrots and apples.

On Friday, he said he has fed wafer cookies to wild deer, but didn't give any to Bucky. He also said there was loose cat food at their house that the deer ate, but it wasn't an intentional meal.

Beyer agreed that the DNR has no plans to look for the deer - unless someone reports seeing it drooling, with droopy ears, bleeding or with other possible sign of illness.

He said the DNR, by the end of the episode, had no specific reason to believe the Halls' deer was diseased.

The DNR wasn't trying to be an "ogre" and the Halls probably got "caught up in the heat of the moment," Beyer said.

"Both sides need to do a better job communicating," he said.

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