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Arkansas Game and Fish euthanizes man's baby deer over disease concerns

Tommy Powell cups three-month-old Baby's face in his hands during their final goodbye before the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission takes Baby to be euthanized.

A Bryant man is left heartbroken after the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission euthanized the fawn he was caring for.

Tommy Powell had "Baby" for just about three months until the Game and Fish came to collect the deer Thursday. The agency says it had no choice but to euthanize the animal because there are no rehabilitation centers in the state who can take Baby. That's because of the threat of chronic wasting disease. The agency says deer and elk cannot be rehabilitated or relocated because the disease is so infectious.

Powell and Baby became friends when the tiny fawn wandered onto his front yard a few months ago. Instinctively, Powell decided to help Baby by nurturing him until he grew to the point he was no longer so young and vulnerable.

"People want to do the right thing. They want to do what's human nature and help that animal," Randy Zellers with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission said. But Zellers added that the agency sees all sorts of problems with a deer being in a suburban backyard. "Once it's habituated to people you've actually reduced its ability to survive later."

Ironically, it was Powell himself who initially contacted Game and Fish. He had reached out to the agency for help in finding Baby a sanctuary or to release him into the wild. But things turned sour, according to Powell, when the agency told him he'd be fined if he did not voluntarily hand Baby over to them to be put down.

"This is the last thing anybody at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission wants to do, believe me," Zellers said. "It's what we have to do for the protection of the entire deer herd. We have to manage for the entire deer herd in the state, and helping prevent disease issues or public safety issues later."

But Powell's neighbor, Kody Freeman, thinks otherwise.

"I thought highly of Game and Fish for a very long time," he said. "Being a hunter myself, this is something I am very close to. This is hitting home for me. You don't kill something that you're not going to eat. You just don't."

Baby was tranquilized Thursday afternoon while KATV crews were at Powell's house. The baby deer was taken off by Game and Fish. Zellers tells KATV Baby would be taken to an undisclosed location in the woods to be put down.

Game and Fish also added that the only way to test for chronic wasting disease is through euthanizing the animal and testing a portion of its brain stem cell.

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