JEFFERSON COUNTY, Mo. (KTVI) – A peculiar “pet” roaming through a Missouri county has caused growing concern among officials and residents.
The animal — a four-point buck — has been spotted in Jefferson County with a collar around its neck and the word “pet” painted on its coat. But for some of those who live in the city of Festus, these sightings no longer come as a surprise.
“We were sitting up there eating, and here he is walking up in the backyard, and I look at [my wife] going, ‘What’s going on? He’s not scared?'” Craig Brooks recalled of his earlier encounter with the deer.
Craig and his wife, Ann Brooks, have lived in the neighborhood for years. But recently, he and his neighbors have increasingly noticed the domesticated deer around houses in the subdivision.
“By the burn pile, he’s from me to you,” he told a reporter from News 2’s sister station, KTVI, during an interview. “I didn’t feel comfortable with him being that close.”
Craig said his discomfort only grew after the deer approached their 1-year-old puppy, Reny.
“To be that trusting, it’s not normal for a deer,” Ann said.
Officials with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office soon became aware of the sightings, as did the state.
“Our agent from that county came to investigate,” said Dan Zarlenga of the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC). “By the time he got there, the deer was gone and there was no sign of it.”
According to Zarlenga, domesticated wildlife isn’t too typical in the area.
“It’s actually illegal. It’s against the Missouri Wildlife Code to take in wild native animals as pets,” he said.
The MDC also warned of the prevalence of chronic wasting disease (CWD): “It could have a very serious impact on deer herd [and] really knock it down,” said Zarlenga.
Neighbors have noticed some potential signs of CWD in their recent encounters with deer.
“He did stumble and fall a few times,” Craig claimed.
“When he was right here next to this clematis vine, I was trying to turn him and shoo him away, and he was resisting,” Ann added.
If the deer does indeed have the disease, Zarlenga said his quality of life will suffer.
“That animal’s got a much lower chance of surviving,” Zarlenga said.
With hunting season ramping up, Zarlenga urges hunters to get their deer checked at Missouri’s CWD management zones. On the busiest days of the season, Nov. 11 and 12, testing for CWD is mandatory.