BENTON, IL (KFVS) - A southern Illinois family that rescued two baby deer and raised them can keep them.
The Crawford family was at risk of having their two pet deer, Dude and Jude, taken away. However, after a months-long fight with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the family received a letter saying they will be allowed to keep them.
Rhonda Phelps Crawford started the petition to save Dude and Jude who live on their rural Benton, Illinois property.
Dude was brought to the family five years ago, after being found next to his dead mother. Crawford said Jude was rescued by the family a year later when he turned up at a friend's house.
Crawford said the family's fight with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources came over how the deer were obtained.
Illinois law allows a person to keep a deer as a pet. However, a person must first have a permit through IDNR and must have made the purchase through a licensed breeder.
Since the family did not have a permit and did not buy the animals, IDNR wanted them to be turned back over to the state. The Crawfords argued that Dude and Jude are a part of their family now.
Veterinary technician Beverly Shofstall with Free Again Wildlife Rehabilitation in Carterville, Ill. said it is illegal to keep a wild animal for many reasons.
"It's a wild animal and some part of his heart wants to run," Shofstall said.
Wild animals such as deer, especially bucks, during mating season can be dangerous. Shofstall explained that bucks sharpen their antlers for hours on end and can become unpredictable when mating hormones are present.
Shofstall explained that deer also naturally run miles a day, which they could not do in a cage.
If you find an injured animal, you should do you best to immediately care for it, but call professionals in your area as soon as possible.