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Do Deer Make Great Pets? What You Need to Know!

Genevieve Dugal

July 7, 2021

Walt Disney’s all-time classic, Bambi, has marked the hearts of thousands since its initial release in 1942. Of all the reasons that made this masterpiece so famous, the adorable fawn is without no doubt the number one. This mesmerizing creature could also be one of the reasons people wonder if deer are great pets and, if so, how to care for them at home.

Well, first off, the quick answer is no, deer don’t make good pets at all. There are several explanations for this, as you will discover in the rest of this article.

Let’s dive in.leaves divider leaf

Why Deer Don’t Make Great Pets at All

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Image Credit: hashan, Pixabay

Keeping a deer as a pet may seem like a good idea at first; after all, they are gorgeous, intelligent, easy to tame, seemingly harmless; you might already have a few in your backyard that come closer every winter to eat what’s left in your trees. In a way, it’s a bit like having big dogs or even horses, isn’t it? Well, not exactly. Here are the reasons why deer don’t make good pets at all:

1. They Can Be Dangerous

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Image Credit: Rainhard Wiesinger, Pixabay

Who would have thought that a cute little fawn could pose a potential danger to humans once they reach adulthood? And yes, even if you adopt a baby deer and raise it throughout its childhood, there will still be a risk of aggression once it reaches adulthood. It is especially male animals in rut that can be dangerous for humans: the surge of testosterone makes them suddenly more territorial and wary. Their huge antlers can puncture your skin and cause serious injury.

And what about females? Females can also be unpredictable, especially if they need to protect their young.

So, harmless as they may seem, deer are first and foremost wild animals, and their behavior can be unpredictable and even aggressive when they are fully grown-ups.


2. It Is Illegal to Keep Deer as Pets in Most States

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Image Credit: Free-Photos, Pixabay

Being native wild animals, it is illegal to own deer as pets in most states. There have been many situations where people have found seemingly orphaned fawns, brought them home and raised them, and eventually received a visit from wildlife control. These people who thought they were doing the right thing sadly saw their beloved pet confiscated, and in many cases, euthanized.

Because deer raised by humans do not have much chance of survival once released into the wild, and if there is no wild rehabilitation center nearby that can accommodate them, they will automatically be euthanized.

Note: Check the last section of this article for what to do if you find a little fawn apparently “abandoned” by its mother.


3. They Are Not Easy to Domesticate

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Image Credit: congerdesign, Pixabay

Deer are not great for domestication – they are fickle and difficult to contain because they can jump high, have a body shape that is difficult to mount or harness, and are so nervous that they can literally die of stress.

Raising deer, especially an orphaned fawn, also requires considerable effort. Since he hasn’t learned the most basic things from his mother, he may lack some basic behavioral skills.

Additionally, when kept in captivity, deer tend to be frailer; if you don’t know how to take care of it properly, then a lot can go wrong. In the wild, they are in their element and have a distinct advantage, but even then, many fawns with their mother do not survive to adulthood.

In short, deer are complex animals to keep because they tend to be more fragile, behave unpredictably, and become unmanageable and wary in adulthood.


4. They May Destroy Your Property

deer in grass_Pixabay
Image Credit: Pixabay

In addition to being generally a nuisance when eating, stomping, and defecating in landscaping and gardens, deer also require a lot of space. Of course, you can build a large, enclosed area if you have enough space in your backyard. However, keep in mind that deer can jump high, so you will need a suitable enclosure. And during the rutting season, you might have even more trouble dealing with your deer’s more destructive and unpredictable behavior.


What to Do If You Find a Baby Deer Alone?

baby deer_Elsemargriet_Pixabay
Image Credit: Elsemargriet, Pixabay

You walk quietly in the woods, and you come face to face with a tiny fawn curled up on the ground. Your first instinct is to rush on him to take him in your arms, reassure him and then bring him home or to a veterinarian, convinced that his life is in danger. Sure, you have the best intentions in the world, but is that the right thing to do in this case?

A fawn alone is not necessarily in danger

If you find a fawn alone, that doesn’t mean it’s abandoned. During its first weeks of life, the fawn does not have a body odor likely to attract predators. Besides, its coat allows it to blend easily in the woods. So, its mother can go away for a few moments during the day to get food for its baby.

baby deer_PublicDomainPictures_Pixabay
Image Credit: PublicDomainPictures, Pixabay

When it feels threatened, the fawn’s reflex is to lie down on the ground and not move. If he sees you coming, then it is very likely that he takes that position that makes it seem sad or hurt, but in reality, it is totally fine.

The only situation that might warrant your intervention is if you find the injured fawn or its mother’s corpse nearby. Otherwise, don’t intervene! On the contrary, turn around calmly and silently without looking behind you to not frighten it.

So, to sum up, if you find a baby fawn alone in the woods:

Do not touch it

If you touch a fawn, you risk depositing your scent on it, which could lead to rejection from its mother. And without the protection of his mother, the baby is doomed. So, hold back your urges to pounce on it to cover it with kisses and hugs, and continue your walk quietly.

baby deer_Piqsels
Image credit: Piqsels

Do not pick it up

Poorly informed walkers think they are doing the right thing and deduce that the fawn is in danger. But the fawn is probably only hidden in the grass while its mother is away looking for food.

If you are really worried, go your way but come back the next day. The young animal may not be there anymore. By picking it up, you will complicate its integration into the natural environment.

Protecting animals also means letting “mother nature do her thing” because she generally does things well.

What to Do Instead of Having a Deer as a Pet

deer_Roman Grac_Pixabay
Image Credit: Roman Grac, Pixabay

Now that you know the reasons why keeping a cute fawn as a pet is a bad idea, you might still want to get close to one. Fortunately, there are a few options for deer enthusiasts:

  • Volunteer at a wildlife rescue center
  • Take long walks in nature and bring your camera
  • Observe them from afar
  • Look for places that allow controlled interactions with deer (like petting zoos or deer farms)
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Final Thoughts

Wanting to keep a deer as a pet is quite understandable. But keeping wild animals in your home is never a good idea, even if they are adorable as babies. There are other ways to care for and protect them so that they can thrive in their natural habitat. And with all the stray dogs and cats abandoned every year, you could no doubt find yourself a better furry companion just by visiting your local shelter.

SEE ALSO: Do Pandas Make Great Pets? What You Need To Know


Featured Image Credit: Martina Janochová, Pixabay

Genevieve Dugal

Genevieve is a biologist and science writer. Her deep love for capuchin monkeys, pumas, and kangaroos has taken her worldwide to work and volunteer for several wildlife rehabilitation centers in Bolivia, Guatemala, Canada, and Australia. As a Canadian expat, Genevieve now lives in Argentina, where she wakes up every morning to horses and cows saying hello from the vast plain next to her home office window. She is the proud mom of three rescued dogs, Lemmy, Nala, and Pochi, and a frisky kitten, Furiosa. Having the privilege of sharing her knowledge and passion for animals of all kinds is what makes her fulfilled and happy.