When an injured white-tailed deer entered a Raleigh family's property, they reportedly bandaged its leg, set it up in a backyard pen and named it Bambi.
By the time wildlife authorities learned of the deer living as a pet, they determined that the animal could not make it on its own in the woods. So they decided to euthanize it.
"It couldn't have (survived)," said Brentley L. Ward, the North Carolina wildlife officer who seized Bambi from small, covered pen behind home in the 6000 block of Poole Road in East Raleigh. "There's no way that animal could have made it out in the wild."
Ward said a fellow wildlife officer informed him on March 30 that an anonymous caller dialed 911 and reported a deer in captivity.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Ward arrived at the home 30 minutes later and spoke with a woman who lived there. The woman, who was not named in a search warrant made public Thursday, told Ward that the animal would not leave.
He said the woman told him that "when we tried to let it go it would walk out the pen but not leave. It would walk back into the pen shortly after."
Ward determined "that at that point the deer was not in captivity, but had been in captivity so long it was tame."
"It answered to the name of Bambi," he said. "It was a small buck deer."
The family, described by Ward as "very helpful," could not be reached for comment Thursday night. But a neighbor told ABC11 that the family never intended to cause harm to the animal.
"The deer was injured when it was small and it came up behind their house," Jay Jeffreys told the television station. "I think they tried to bandage the leg and so forth. They had a pen and the door was open and they just put it in there to let it heal up."
Ward was reluctant to divulge Bambi's fate after the animal was taken from the home, saying that state policy mandates that the animals can't be released back into the wild.
"You can't possess wildlife in captivity, unless you have the proper permit," he said. "We did what we had to do."