Armed agents raid animal shelter for baby deer
WISN 12 News investigates an operation raising questions about the use of government resources and the state policy that meant a death sentence for a fawn.
"It was like a SWAT team," shelter employee Ray Schulze said.
Two weeks ago, Schulze was working in the barn at the Society of St. Francis on the Kenosha-Illinois border when a swarm of squad cars arrived and officers unloaded with a search warrant.
"(There were) nine DNR agents and four deputy sheriffs, and they were all armed to the teeth," Schulze said.
The focus of their search was a baby fawn brought there by an Illinois family worried she had been abandoned by her mother.
"When it made a little noise, it sounded like it was laughing," Schulze said.
Schulze videotaped the fawn they named Giggles during the two weeks she was there. The Department of Natural Resources began investigating after two anonymous calls reporting a baby deer at the no-kill shelter.
The warden drafted an affidavit for the search warrant, complete with aerial photos in which he described getting himself into a position where he was able to see the fawn going in and out of the barn.
Agents told staff they came to seize the deer because Wisconsin law forbids the possession of wildlife.
"I said the deer is scheduled to go to the wildlife reserve the next day," Schulze said.
It was to go to a wildlife reserve in Illinois that allows the rehabilitation of deer. Schulze said agents corralled workers near the picnic area and then set out in search of the fawn.
"I was thinking in my mind they were going to take the deer and take it to a wildlife shelter, and here they come carrying the baby deer over their shoulder. She was in a body bag," Schulze said. "I said, 'Why did you do that?' He said, 'That's our policy,' and I said, 'That's one hell of a policy.'"
The Department of Natural Resources spoke to WISN 12 News about the fawn.
Supervisor Jennifer Niemeyer said the law requires the DNR agents to euthanize animals like Giggles because of the potential for disease and danger to humans.
"These are always very difficult situations for both parties involved, and we are empathetic to the fact of what happened because we know in our heart of hearts they tried to do the right thing," Niemeyer said.
"Could you have made a phone call before showing up, I mean, that's a lot of resources," WISN 12 News investigative reporter Colleen Henry asked.
"If a sheriff's department is going in to do a search warrant on a drug bust, they don't call them and ask them to voluntarily surrender their marijuana or whatever drug that they have before they show up," Niemeyer said,
Niemeyer denied agents killed Giggles at the shelter. She said they tranquilized her and then euthanized her off-site.
"I don't care where they would have killed her, it would have been wrong," shelter president Cindy Schultz said.
Schultz said she plans to sue the DNR for removing Giggles without even a court hearing. She also questioned what such an operation costs taxpayers.
"They went way over the top for a little tiny baby deer," Schultz said,
Schulze said he has nightmares about the baby deer raid. He hasn't moved her feed bowl or baby bottle.
The DNR told WISN 12 News despite the allegations outlined in its search warrant, it will file no charges against the shelter.
In certain circumstances, Wisconsin allows organizations to house wild deer but only with a state-issued permit.
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