CHARLESTON, W.Va. — My father-in-law often talks about keeping a groundhog for a pet when he was a child. Others talk about finding baby birds, snakes, bears, deer, raccoons, and a myriad of other critters and taking them to raise.
While I know many have done it, it’s against the law and it should be. MetroNews reporter Jeff Jenkins this week spoke to Natural Resources Police Sgt. Gary Amick about a case in Cabell County where a man was cited for harboring wildlife. The man, according to Amick, had a six point buck and a spike buck in his mobile home where he assessed the older one had been harbored for two years.
“To be a six-point it would have to have been confined at least two years, and from the growth of the dew claw on the deer that buck probably hasn’t been outside the house for two years,” Amick told MetroNews.
The conditions for the animals were horrid according to investigators.
“They had straw on the floor, feces all over the place. They had urinated in the straw. The straw was fermenting. It stunk to high-heaven. That’s not domesticating a wild animal. You can’t domesticate these animals,” Amick said.
Shows like Grizzly Adams glorified keeping wildlife as pets, but that was Hollywood, not the real world. The movie the Yearling did a pretty good job of showing the negative side of harboring wildlife. Then there’s the case of Timothy Treadwell. Treadwell was an activist for the grizzly bear population. Treadwell didn’t keep a bear as a pet, but he often interacted with the giant beasts in their own habitat. He was also a tireless fighter for their protection. To show their appreciation for those acts of kindness, the bears killed and ate Treadwell and his girlfriend in 2003.
We make a huge mistake when we assign human emotions to an animal. Animals don’t feel love and compassion in the same manner we do. They have no reasoning ability, they have only instinct. It may seem at times like they are trained or feel love and loyalty and at times they may, but not always. There’s never a sure fire guarantee they aren’t going to just turn on you or others.
Keeping an animal may seem like fun, but eventually the wild side of that animal will probably come out. A rutting buck in your house is neither pleasant or safe. Bears, coyotes, bobcats, all seem cute and cuddly when they are young. But they grow up and their wild instincts often take over. They are a wild animal, which is completely unpredictable. They could create a major safety problem for those who keep them or worse, the weakest among us, nearby children.
The other scenario is the wildlife becomes too trusting of humans and cannot survive on its own. In both cases, it usually ends badly for the animal having to be put down or winding up in a position where it had no fear and is killed by a hunter or a wild predator.
The wildlife in our state belongs to everybody and not to any individual. It’s the best plan for man and beast alike.