Hoonah fawn reprieved

Posted: Sunday, June 30, 2002

After learning more about an offer from the Alaska Zoo, state wildlife officials have agreed to send it a fawn found in Hoonah last week.

Officials at the state Division of Wildlife Conservation said Friday morning that they intended to euthanize the fawn, about 2 weeks old, because they didn't believe they could find a permanent home for it.

But by Friday afternoon, they learned that the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage had offered not merely to wean the fawn, but to keep it permanently.

Wayne Regelin, director of wildlife conservation, said the fawn probably would be flown on Monday from Hoonah to Juneau, and then to Anchorage.

"I'm thrilled to hear that's what they're going to do," said Susan Tyler, a Hoonah resident who helped care for the fawn. "I'm sure it will be a big relief to a lot of us here in Hoonah."

Every year, the state publicizes that people shouldn't pick up baby wild animals thinking that they're orphaned. Often, the mother is nearby. In any case, it's against state law to handle wild animals without a permit, and it's nature's way that many young animals die, wildlife officials said.

"Once they pick it up you've got two choices - throw the animal in jail (a zoo) for the rest of their life, or they die," Regelin said Friday.

The Sitka blacktail fawn approached loggers near Hoonah on Monday, said Ingrid Boettcher, the town's animal control officer. The loggers, who work for Whitestone Logging, returned the fawn to the woods several times, but it kept coming back, she said.

Instead of hiding from people, as fawns usually do, "this one kept trying to find any moving thing it could," Tyler said.

The state trooper in Hoonah was out of town, so Boettcher kept the fawn overnight in a dog kennel in her home, feeding it infant formula from a bottle. On Tuesday, Boettcher put the fawn back in the woods on the advice of wildlife conservation officials.

But on Wednesday Boettcher called the Alaska Zoo, and it agreed to take the fawn if the state would issue a permit to transport a wild animal. Someone retrieved the fawn from the woods, where it hadn't moved, and Boettcher has cared for it since.

"The poor little thing, it was so starved when we found it again," Tyler said.

Alaska Zoo Director Louis "Tex" Edwards said Friday that he sympathizes with the state's message about not picking up baby wild animals. "But I also know the sensitivity the public has to animals, and it's one I share."

The Alaska Zoo doesn't take healthy animals from the wild, Edwards said. But more than half of its 80 animals have come to the zoo through situations similar to what happened in Hoonah, he said.

Edwards said it's a better use of orphaned baby animals to be placed in educational institutions than put back in the wild, where they face certain death without their mothers.

Eric Fry can be reached at efry@juneauempire.com.

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