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.
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.
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.
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.
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.