Heartland woman in search of new home for pet deer

A Heartland woman in Benton, Illinois is asking for help with finding a home for her pet deer.
Published: Dec. 2, 2022 at 9:11 AM CST
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FRANKLIN COUNTY, Ill. (KFVS) - A Heartland woman is asking for help with finding a home for her beloved pet.

Jessica Stearns lives in Benton, Illinois, and right now she is heartbroken after learning she could not keep Duke, her pet deer.

Duke has live with her since he was a fawn.

“He and his mother had gotten hit by a car, and Duke was laying beside her and wouldn’t leave,” said Stearns. “My stepdaughter came back through when she did he was still laying there, and so she picked up the deer for me and brought it home.”

This is what started their bond.

Duke mad his way indoors of the Stearns’ house and also the hearts of the family.

“We became really close, you know when I started bottle feeding him I would hold him in my arms, and bottle feeding, we had a connection,” said Stearns.

Despite living with the Stearns, Duke managed to get out of the house and go exploring.

“I was extremely shocked, and I guess he was up at the hospital and he had walked around for an hour and walking around with people,” explained Stearns.

Duke had made it inside the Franklin County Hospital in Benton.

That’s when authorities were notified of a deer, wearing a Christmas sweater, loose inside the hospital.

“He did have a Christmas sweater on and it wasn’t because I know they stay warm with all their fur, but I just thought it was cute,” explained Stearns.

When Stearns wanted to bring Duke home, she learned this was not option.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources made it clear she could not have a pet deer inside her home in city limits.

“I understand I’ve done wrong now but I would still like to see him you know go be with someone who has a rehabilitation wildlife license,” said Stearns. “I just don’t want to see Duke not have a chance at life because of human error.”

Her plea to find Duke a new, qualified home is getting a lot of attention.

Nearly 2,000 have signed an online petition in hopes to get her help.

This has touched Stearns.

“I can’t believe the people who came out of the woodworks with trying to get the deer to a place where he can live his full life.”

If you know of a rehabilitation wildlife licensed service who can help, Stearns asks you to call 618-751-5286.