After an onslaught of public outcry over the euthanasia of three fawns and one elk calf taken from a Rochester animal rehabilitation facility, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife says it has no plans to euthanize the remaining 11 fawns.
WDFW seized the animals from For Heaven's Sake Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation after determining they'd grown too comfortable with humans. A summer intern complained that volunteers were given little training about how to keep from imprinting the deer and were even allowed and encouraged to cozy up to them and "mother" them.
Executive Director Claudia Supensky refuted the claims, calling the situation falsified and traumatic. She and other rehab facilities criticized WDFW for not allowing proper due process before the animals were killed.
Eleven animals were left alive, and WDFW said Thursday they're looking for solutions that do not include euthanasia for the remaining deer.
"What that looks like is still complicated," said WDFW Wildlife Program Assistant Director Eric Gardner. "We're looking for other solutions and we're hopeful that as we continue our decision with their counsel that we can find solutions other than euthanasia that would include potentially moving some deer to Washington State University and continuing to work with them for potential viable alternatives."
Another option is property near Montesano, owned by Dan Boeholt. A conservationist and volunteer with several groups like Eyes in the Woods, Boeholt has 65 acres he has offered for the deer. Boeholt called WDFW's decision last week "disgusting" but hopes this will give them an opportunity to regain public confidence.
"I'm thrilled the deer will have a chance to live instead of no chance to live being euthanized," Boeholt said.
Gardner says they still stand by the science that led them to classify the animals as habituated to humans, a decision which required WDFW to euthanize them according to state law. Whatever happens with the deer, it will not include a change in policy allowing rehab facilities to imprint wildlife.
"We will continue to regulate in a way that ensures our rehabbers do not habituate and imprint wildlife," Gardner said.
There are still several legal issues to sift through. The current Washington Administrative Code requires animals habituated at rehab facilities be euthanized. WDFW is considering options that would allow for an exception considering the circumstances and public interest in keeping the animals alive.
There is still a lot of work to do to confirm any plans, but when asked if any would include euthanasia, Gardner said it's highly unlikely.
"I would be very, very surprised. We're looking for solutions that do not include euthanasia," Gardner said.