Do You Want a Wild Animal Pet? Oh, Deer!

Wild animals do not make good pets, as a rule. Despite my story of the baby ground squirrel caught in the High Sierras of California, there are too many things that argue against keeping wild pets.

When we moved to the forested foothills of California we had one neighbor who fed the deer. The deer in our area are not deprived. They have plenty of natural food including leaves and twigs of wood plants, berries, fruits, acorns, aquatic plants, grasses and evergreen plants. Their diet varies according to season and they are adapted to particular natural food cycle.

But these neighbors enjoyed seeing the deer feeding near their house, so they brought in grain and commercially made pellet feed for them year round. More deer began coming into the immediate area for the free unlimited buffet.

White Tail Deer Fawn-- It's not abandoned. Mom Leaves it alone to prevent her smell from attracting predators. The babies have no odor.
White Tail Deer Fawn-- It's not abandoned. Mom Leaves it alone to prevent her smell from attracting predators. The babies have no odor.

The herds sometimes grew to 30 or more individuals who were becoming used to people. Some became so bold that they would walk right into an open garage.

Wild deer are fairly docile, timid and cautious creatures, but meeting a 250 lb. buck, or a protective mommy doe in a confined space is not something you want to do.

They have hard sharp hooves and will use them if they feel threatened.The people have since moved away, and the herds have dispersed somewhat returning to a more natural diet.

I'm sure that they are disappointed and miss the free lunch, but they will be better off in the long run.

Human residents will be less likely to have so many of them outwitting the fences around their vegetable plots and flower gardens.

Red Squirrel-- outside in the wild.
Red Squirrel-- outside in the wild.

Squirrel Mischief

In another instance a wild squirrel come down the chimney flue in a mountain cabin while the owners were away.

Besides getting soot all over everything, it shredded the curtains and furniture, as well as chewing into the cupboard to eat their cereals and macaroni.

It must have seemed to the squirrel that he was a time-traveler frantically inserted into an unfamiliar world from which there was no easy escape.

Wild animals are supposed to be wild.

People who feed wild animals or try to make pets out of them are really doing the animals and themselves a disservice. Besides being dangerous and destructive, there are several reasons it is not a good thing.

One deer eating flowers is nice.
One deer eating flowers is nice.
Herds are not.
Herds are not.

It is Bad for the Animal Because:

1. Wild animals do best when they are allowed to live by their inborn instincts: They have evolved to eat certain kinds of food.

2. They do not learn a "wild social structure": Their instincts are geared toward competition and cooperation with others of their kind. Human- imprinted animals can rarely return to their wild home, even when they become a danger or a nuisance.

3. They can become aggressive and unhappy in captivity: Without their usual habits and surroundings a wild animal is not likely to thrive. They are likely to require more attention from their human owners than the owner can give.

4. Human owners of wild animals may not be aware of special needs: Wild animals in human care may get the wrong kinds of food or too much food and too little exercise.

5. Animals can catch diseases from people. A monkey in a London zoo died of human measles. Veterinary care may not be available for wild species, and if it is, the costs may be very high.

Clever, entertaining raccoons can be a clever, entertaining headache as a pet.
Clever, entertaining raccoons can be a clever, entertaining headache as a pet.

It's bad for the human Because . . .

1. Wild animals can be wild: Serious injuries occur when an an animal that seems docile is frightened, frustrated or ill.

Bites, scratches and kicks can be serious or fatal. Even small animals can be unpredictable and destructive.

2. Animals can carry diseases: Some animal or parasite-borne diseases such as rabies, Bubonic plague, tetanus and tularemia can be fatal. Others like Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted fever, can be very serious as well.

There are over 150 known zoonotic diseases including, bacterial, viral, fungal, protozoal, parasitic and tick-borne ailments.

You can't tell some people . . .

Still there will be people who will try to make pets out of squirrels, raccoons, deer (even lions, tigers and bears) --without providing for their special needs, and without the necessary expertise to keep them healthy and happy.

My story about capturing a baby ground squirrel relates a mostly happy experience, but at that time we were mostly ignorant about why we should not have done it . . . and it was probably illegal.

Let wild animals be wild.

Adopt a domestic shelter pet.

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Comments 67 comments

DonnaCSmith profile image

DonnaCSmith 7 years ago from Central North Carolina

I am so fortunate to live in the middle of nowhere and be able to watch the wild critters in their natural habitat from my office window. Good adivce, good hub!


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Oddly serious for me, but I felt I needed a disclaimer, to redeem myself from the ground squirrel capture I wrote about.  I love to see the animals every day, too.

Thanks for commenting.


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States

Very good advice and hub!  Sometimes we humans in up in situations of rescuing wild animals.  We owned a 700 acres farm for many years.  When a trespassing out-of-seaon hunter shot a mother deer, we found the newly born baby nearby.  Bottle feeding it seemed like the right thing to do.  She lived, but having a pet deer kicking in your front door because she wanted a bottle, following you several miles to the highway whenever you left, etc. left a lot to be desired.  We may have saved her life, but we did her no favor making her friendly to humans (hunters) and dependant upon us.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Jerilee, I know you were trying to do the right thing. It happens often... and sometimes has unexpected results.

 Whenever possible, injured or orphaned animals need the help of a professional rehabber. They often can be restored to the wild,( the animals, not the rehabbers) or if they are too damaged they might be turned into educational animals.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America

I still like your tiny ground squirrel in his sock. Someone should do a sketch of him.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Hmmm, I guess I could do that, if I took the time.

I also have a newspaper clipping photo that shows him, the doll baby bottle and the cat. I will try scanning it-- if I can find it.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America

Oh, that would be so cool! You could enlarge it and frame it for your wall at home.


solarcaptain profile image

solarcaptain 7 years ago from california

Pattyinglish,thanks for posting this hub. well said. I do wish people would realize animals are not play things for humans. Evevy one needs to own a cat from birth on--then they will know a little about the requirements of animals. Such as: Why didn't I get her neutered? she is only four months old! AAAAh. thanks for your post.

http://hubpages.com/my/trackers


SpotCoolStuff.com profile image

SpotCoolStuff.com 7 years ago from San Francisco, CA USA

In college, a friend of mine found a baby squirrel in his window well with a broken leg. It was September and so he took the squirrel in for the winter and nursed it back to health. During that time the squirrel (Rocky) made a GREAT pet. Once spring came it was a painful choice, whether to release it into the wild (would it have the survival skills?) or keep it (would it be happy? bite people?).

A lot of these calls have to be made on a case-by-case basis.


Benson Yeung profile image

Benson Yeung 7 years ago from Hong Kong

we are in total agreement. nice hub.


Ryan Hupfer profile image

Ryan Hupfer 7 years ago from San Francisco, CA

Some people hve called me a wild animal and you definitely don't want anything to do with me. :) Great HubMob Hub!


C.S.Alexis profile image

C.S.Alexis 7 years ago from NW Indiana

I was happy to see this article. I agree that leaving the wild in the wild is best. i have two dogs, both from shelters. They were the castoffs from humans who did not NEED them after all. This happens far too often. I have seen it with wild animals. They become a problem and then people do not want to finish what they started. Good for you for writing this one. C.S.


robkmf profile image

robkmf 7 years ago from Orlando, FL

I once tried to domesticate a raccoon and I know what you mean. They're very violent animals.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Yes, they can be dangerous. I did know someone who had a pet raccoon-- they thought it was entertaining to give it a sugar cube and watch the little beast "wash"-- as they often did with their food. Of course, it dissolved and left the critter wondering where it went. Thanks for commenting.


RGraf profile image

RGraf 7 years ago from Wisconsin

So true! What people also forget is that any pet (even the domestic ones) are still animals! They can still have those instincts that could hurt others. Learn more about any animal that you have and let the wild ones stay wild. They are much happier and we enjoy them more when you do.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

When you live in a non-urban area like we do, it is so much fun to see the wild animals. As much as we would like too, giving them a hug is out of the question. Too bad that wildness is being squeezed out of our lives in many areas.


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 7 years ago from East Coast, United States

I love the wild animals, we have some foxes around here that are good for eating mice and rates. I am happy that they are here. But as far as actually feeding the things, forget it. And attracting deer to you home is asking for trouble. They may be pretty but they'll gobble up your garden.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

That is for sure-- I love to see the deer-- but forget about providing them expensive landscaping materials to eat.


Pets 7 years ago

I learned of a story recently where a baby opossum entered the home of my in-laws, climbing two flights of stairs in the back of the house and making its way into to the kitchen. It took them 5 hours to chase it down throughout the house and catch it.


letmetellyou profile image

letmetellyou 6 years ago from everywhere

I have read where this man raised bears for pets?! Hmm...now that is wild..Thank you for writing this topic.


theherbivorehippi profile image

theherbivorehippi 6 years ago from Holly, MI

Great Hub! I agree..you should never bring a wild animal in as a pet! It's not fair to them to be taken out of their environment. Thanks for writing!!


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country Author

letmetellyou-- bears are usually a very bad idea. I'll stick to the Teddy variety.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thank you, herbivore, I agree completely. People who try it really don't know what they are getting into.


sophs 6 years ago

Brilliant hub Rochelle. I came across something on the internet today, explaining how some people in Nigeria (I think it was Nigeria) were keeping hyena's as pets! Hyena's! They had them on huge thick chains and some had muzzles on. Not only is that cruel but very dangerous can you imagine walking down the street and someone coming towards you with a hyena on a leash! I'm still shocked!

Great hub, thanks for sharing :)


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thanks, Sophs.

This one hasn't had a comment for awhile, but I think the subject is important.

We can love and admire wild animals, but 'owning' them is always bad for them. I think zoos, that are well run and have experts guiding the keeping of wild animals are necessary for the preservation of many species, and the education of humans.

Thanks for bringing this back. I appreciate your comment.

I guess owning a hyena would be for protection against people with aggressive dogs? I'm sure there will be tragedy on both sides of the leash.


warrioRR profile image

warrioRR 6 years ago from Rawalpindi Pakistan

Animals are looking in cute only in zoo

Really


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Really? I like to see them living in the wild. Zoos are necessary to protect species which are being squeezed out of their natural habitat.

Thanks for the comment.


theherbivorehippi profile image

theherbivorehippi 6 years ago from Holly, MI

Brilliantly written! Wild animals should be left in the wild! It is unfair of humans to be so selfish to take them from their natural habitat to force them to transform their natural lives and instincts! Fabulous hub!


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thank you, theherbivorehippi. I agree, but it sometimes happens accidentally to people who think they have found an abandoned baby animal. There are cases where an animal may lose a parent due to accident or hunting, but even the real orphans need some specialized care.


love pets! 6 years ago

Thank you for a great hub on wild pets :) keep up the quality work!!


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thank you, love pets. Animal lovers need to love the wild ones from a distance.


katewil912 profile image

katewil912 6 years ago from CO

Great hub for people to realize the dark side of some romantic ideas.


bd160900 profile image

bd160900 6 years ago from San Diego

Loved this post. thanks for writing it


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thank you, katewil912 and bd60900. The temptation is strong to rescue a "helpless" animal. Usually, nature handles the situation and provides a balance we can easily disrupt.


doublekk profile image

doublekk 5 years ago from PA

Thank you for the info about the white tailed deer no having an odor. I never knew this. I live by the woods and last summer the woods were torn up to build a new row of houses. There were deers all over the place trying to get resettled. It was heart breaking. My neighbor had a baby deer wedged under his shed. It was stuck. We got it free but it couldn't walk. I reserched what to feed it while I tried to find it's mother. We feed it once. My dog mothered it and then I found it's mom. A very happy reunion.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 5 years ago from California Gold Country Author

The babies apparently have no oder -- the adults do-- that's one reason why they don't stay with them when the little ones are not strong enough to follow them.

We once had one born under the oak tree in our front meadow-- easily visible from our front windows. When the mommy came back to suckle her baby the first day, she had to lie down beside it. The tiny one was not tall enough to reach the nipple when she stood up.They grow fast, before the first week the fawn was up bounding around.

Sounds like your experience turned out well, though the deer had some adaptions to make.

Those babies are so beautiful, I can understand why people want to take care of them.

Too bad when their habitat is drastically disturbed, but deer seem to be able to do it.


TigerLillyRose profile image

TigerLillyRose 5 years ago

I am lucky enough to work with and live with exotic animals. These are animals two or three generations (or more) bred in captivity. Occasionally I have worked with ones wild caught. With habitat disappearing, species going extinct, private breeding programs provide the best way to continue species. Zoos are for profit, you don't want to know what some zoos do with their unwanted overstock.

I was raised with wild animals. My father tried to rehab a coyote pup that was taken from the wild. Sadly, not much was known at that time, and she would not return to the wild. I got the benefit of learning how a different species thinks. Most people expect animals to react in certain ways. A wild animal in unpredictable. When I'm raising an exotic, my world has to revolve around THEIR life. My house has to be animal proof...lion cubs do not make good house guests. If you think it's tough making your place child safe, imagine trying to make it safe for a wild animal. Our homes are full of toxins that can kill a wild animal while not even phasing a domestic one.

Even trained handlers have their stories and their scars. You have to be aware of that animal's status at all times. Is it hungry? Grumpy? Sick? Playful? That animal is your focus, because if you get stupid, you or the animal will get hurt.

I equate taking a wild animal away from it's environment just to be a pet exactly the same thing as someone kidnapping a child from their family. Except the kidnappers probably have a better chance of keeping the child healthy.

If you want a truly uplifting moment, find out when your local rehabilitators are going to do a release. We have one in Oregon that you can request to attend the release of a hawk or sometimes even an eagle. Watch that creature soar into the sky, or race for the freedom of what ever it's natural environment is. That's when you will know why you shouldn't keep a wild animal.

Please, if you are concerned about the wild things, work on keeping their habitat. There are things you can do in your own backyard, or help save the rainforest. Donate to your favorite animal rehab, you can sponsor one online and get to watch it as it recovers and return to the wild.

Some of my rehabs I'm sure are dead of old age by now, but every time I see that kind of bird,, or animal in the wild, I think, because of me, there is one more in the world.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 5 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thanks for you professional insight, and for your good work, TigerLillyRose. It seems like there are more people moving into rural and habitat areas who need to realize that wild animals are not pets. I liked your 'kidnapping' insight. "Adopting" a wild critter is more like an alien abduction.


gigglyemma profile image

gigglyemma 5 years ago

Aawwwwwwwwwwwww the pics are soooooo cute


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 5 years ago from California Gold Country Author

They can be almost irresistible.


Kenzo097 profile image

Kenzo097 5 years ago

I agree with you, wild animals should not be kept as pets.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 5 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thanks for reading, Kenzo.


howcurecancer profile image

howcurecancer 5 years ago

You are fighting for the wild animals rights.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 5 years ago from California Gold Country Author

If people think about what they are doing, it is better for them and the animals.


GrantGMcgowan profile image

GrantGMcgowan 5 years ago

Cool, before you can train that, you do to fight that wild. Thanks for sharing.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 5 years ago from California Gold Country Author

OK. Thanks, I think.


Pickle luvr 5 years ago

My uncle had an albino prarie dog once and it was really nice it followed him around like a dog and it was adorable you could pet him and he was really nice


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 5 years ago from California Gold Country Author

That does sound very cute. Often albino animals are outcasts. Also because they ate too visible, they tend not to survive because predators are more likely to see them. It may have known it had found a safe haven.


ForestBear profile image

ForestBear 5 years ago

Couldn't agree more. Great hub, I enjoyed my visit. Thank you!


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 5 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thank you, ForestBear. We had a bear in our yard, examining the duck cage a few nights ago. That wasn't you, was it?


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas

Great hub, that I rated as interesting. I too love to watch the wild animals and find their antics quite amusing in my rural yard. Just last week I rescued a newborn baby squirrel and wrote my very first hub about it. I'm looking forward to reading more from you.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 5 years ago from California Gold Country Author

I read your squirrel hub. Sounds like your dog knew it was a helpless baby. it's good that you knew how to find help.


lundmusik profile image

lundmusik 5 years ago from Tucson AZ

totally agree with your views,,, see if you agree with the Obama administration's new program about deer crossings, at my hub on the subject,, a federal policy on deer crossings,, just what we need..


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 5 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thanks for you comment, lundmusik. Glad to see you are helpnig the government protect the deer, they were here before we were-- it's time to give back. lol


Ciao 4 years ago

Totally right!

Weve already taken WAY too much ,(land.etc)


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 4 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thank you, Ciao.


StephenSMcmillan profile image

StephenSMcmillan 4 years ago

Great hub.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 4 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thank you, Stephen.


independentminded 4 years ago

It's wholeheartedly agreed; Wild animals should not be kept as pets, under any circumstances. Those who do, imho, are tempting fate! There've been horrible stories about wild animals in captivity finally losing patience and going on a rampage that results in damage to property, and serious injury or death to the wild animal's owners.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 4 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thank you for your comment, independentminded. You are right. It often can result in tragedy.


independentminded 4 years ago

You're welcome, Rochelle.


Princessa profile image

Princessa 4 years ago from France

A friend of mine had a Deer Fawn wondering into his house everyday. We assumed that the mother was dead because after his first visit the deer started to spend more and more time in the house. After a while the Deer became friends with the dog and the cat. It was a bizarre thing to enter into the living room and find a deer playing with the dog! Once it became older and bigger, it started to come less often until eventually it only stayed on the gardens where we can still see him occassionally.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 4 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Well, apparently it retained its wildness and was able to fend for itself. I would say this was an unusual case, where the animal chose the association.

The danger usually comes when people try to feed a deer or other wild animal, and it becomes dependent.


JoyLevine profile image

JoyLevine 3 years ago

Good article and good advice. I love animals of all kinds, even the creepy crawlies. I have always agreed the best 'pets' are the ones who grace you with their presence (where you can view them up close) and then return to the wild. I have worked at a Science Center and I worked for awhile as a Wildlife Rehabilitator, so over the years I have had experiences with wild animals. It makes it hard when you don't have the contact, because it is a wonderful feeling. However you know the animal's rights and welfare must come first. Now, I simply make my yard into a backyard habitat and I have a butterfly garden that I get immense joy out of, and birds of all kinds at the feeders, ducks and waterfowl, babies, squirrels (Baby birds that is), lizards, and more. That is the best experience of all, watching my LIVE DISCOVERy channel by simply looking out the patio door. ;)


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 3 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thanks for commenting JoyLevine. I found your comment this morning, shortly after I had been watching twin fawns chasing each other around our property. They are very cute and playful at this stage. I can see why someone would would be tempted to 'adopt' one, but isn't a good idea for either party.

They like to chase the quail chicks, too. The baby birds scatter and regroup until they find a brush pile to hide in. We are lucky to be able to enjoy them all in the wild.


Breck123 2 years ago

I believe that anyone has the right to own any animal that they want to. This includes "wild" animals. Your first two stories are about animals in the wild. They are irrelevant to the argument on exotic pets. And why would an animal, in captivity mind you, need the learn the "wild social structure". Another thing, many exotics pets thrive in captivity. Most reptiles and amphibians do wonderfully in captivity. So do many birds, fish, and mammals. And for the animals that do have harder care, there are people dedicated enough to take care of them. And the general public has almost never been harmed by captive animals. For more information, I recommend that you read Melissa A Smith's hubpages.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 2 years ago from California Gold Country Author

I think the real message is that problems can pop up when people try to return an imprinted, dependent animal to the wild, or when people with very little knowledge about a particular species try to make them pets. Yes, it does take dedication. People need to know what they are committing themselves to.

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