A wild, but tame deer that had become a pet for some Clarington residents was destroyed by two wildlife officers and witnessed by several residents Wednesday.
The deer had been in town for months, roaming from one end to the other while residents fed it. Videos and photographs show the deer playing with children and adults alike in their backyards.
However, the deer came to the attention of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources after a resident reportedly called to complain that it was eating out of his garden.
ODNR's wildlife department decided the deer had to be put down, citing public safety hazards. District Four Manager Tim Parrett said the animal could become a danger, especially as a buck with antlers. He also said the deer's "abnormal and strange behavior" indicates it could be carrying disease, and that there would be no way to test it while alive.
The potential for disease was also why ODNR ruled out relocating the deer, as it could spread to another herd.
Parrett did acknowledge it was possible the deer was simply raised by humans, and that could explain the animal's behavior.
Many residents are unhappy with the resolution to the problem.
The deer was tracked by wildlife officers on Wednesday afternoon to the upper end of Clarington, near the park. Resident Sandy Potts said the deer was shot twice in front of two young girls and their mother.
"The deer didn't run, it's not scared of anything," she said. "That was upsetting to them."
The witnesses said they were not warned before gunshots rang out.
Potts added a wildlife officer has tried to shoot the deer before, but residents surrounded the animal and prevented him from doing so.
Parrett said his report indicates two of the witnesses were standing on a porch while one was in a car.
"The officer spoke directly to all three people and explained what they were going to do and reasons why," he said.
"He got consent from people who were present and looked around for other pedestrians. It was on the edge of town, and seeing that it was in a safe area, they dispatched the animal in a safe manner."
According to Parrett, the deer's body has been transported to the Department of Agriculture in Reynoldsburg to be tested for disease.
The procedure is unclear if the animal is found to be diseased. Parrett says ODNR will wait for instructions from the state veterinarian.
Further tests will look for Chronic Wasting Disease, a major concern for deer and similar animals.
Though it has not been found in Ohio, when found in other states like Maryland, counties have been quarantined to contain the threat.
The testing requires brain and stem tissue, and results could be a long way off.
"It's not a quick, instant test," Parrett said. "It could be a matter of weeks."