GENESEE (WWJ) – The Genesee County deer that has grabbed international attention could soon be calling the Detroit Zoo its new home.
The state Department of Natural Resources said the zoo in Royal Oak has been asked to provide a home for Lilly — a deer that has been living inside a Genesee County home for five years.
The deer’s “owners,” who don’t want to be named, said they rescued Lilly — who was born on the side of the road just after her mother was killed in a car crash. Police at the time allowed the family to care for the fawn, saying she would probably die anyway.
Since then, Lilly has been living with the family and their other pets. Neighbors in the area say they don’t have a problem with the couple keeping the deer. However, the DNR, which was tipped off about the deer by a neighbor’s friend, said it’s illegal to keep wild animals as pets.
Since the DNR learned of the situation, it has been working with the family to find a properly licensed, suitable location for the deer. Officials with the Detroit Zoological Society say that, provided the deer is tested and has no health issues, Lilly could be relocated to the Detroit Zoo within the next few weeks.
“From the beginning, folks throughout our department have worked to find the right space for this deer,” DNR Director Keith Creagh said in a statement. “The Detroit Zoo is a world-class facility for animals, and I commend the zoo’s leadership for their willingness to help.”
Ron Kagan, executive director of the Detroit Zoological Society, said it is standard procedure for all incoming animals to undergo pre-acceptance health screening to prevent the introduction of diseases to the zoo’s other animals.
“The Detroit Zoo is frequently asked to help with the rescue of exotic and wild animals in challenging situations and many have found sanctuary here,” Kagan said in a statement. “We are glad to provide whatever assistance we can to help this deer transition to a new life where she can roam in more open spaces and be surrounded by other animals in a natural setting.”
Detroit Zoo veterinary staff members are working with the DNR to set up the timing for testing that will include TB, parasites and several other diseases that deer may carry and that may pose risk to other zoo animals. If tests indicate the deer is healthy, plans will be discussed for her move to the zoo.
DNR officials said they want to reinforce the law, which says its illegal for Michigan residents to possess wild animals. No matter how domesticated a wild animal may appear, DNR wildlife biologists say such animals can still pose significant risk to the public. The department has always urged people, especially during the spring when baby animals are more visible, to leave wildlife in the wild.