(MORGANTON, N.C.) — Nancy Reese, of Morganton, N.C., rescued a fawn from the side of road last June and has cared for it ever since, helping it to regain strength. Now, Reese says wildlife officers are threatening to take the animal from her property and euthanize it.
“From two in the afternoon to eight o’clock at night, it would try to stand up and try to nurse,” Reese told ABC News. “I let it lay down there all day from two to eight at night, and I went down there and it had blow flies all over it. So I brought it home with me and wiped him off and had to force feed him and gave him the bottle.”
The deer is now “fat as mud,” she says.
Reese believes the deer, who she named Buddy and keeps in a pen in her front yard, is now 7 months old. But not everyone who knows about Buddy is approving of him being on her property.
“A lot of people know I have this deer. Somebody called and told on me,” she said.
It is illegal in North Carolina to keep a deer in captivity, so wildlife officers paid Reese a visit.
“The very first time they came up here they said, ‘Ma’am, you have put this deer in harm’s way and now it’s probably going to have to be euthanized,” Reese explained.
But Reese, 51, has grown attached to Buddy and is not willing to give up the animal without a fight.
“I was just wanting to raise it back and turn it loose. There’s nobody up here. I live in the sticks. I was going to let him loose here,” she said. “He has brought so much happiness to my life. I’m disabled and I live here in the mountains by myself and he’s just helped me so much.”
Reese says two wildlife officials returned to her home again Thursday.
“They said, ‘Nancy, we have to get professional deer handlers to come get this deer from your property now.’ I said, ‘I’m just trying to find a place for it live,” Reese explained. “He said, ‘You keep doing what you’re doing, and we’ll be back in touch. …He didn’t say he was going to euthanize it.’”
Wildlife officials did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment, but told ABC News affiliate WSOC they have not made a final decision on Buddy’s fate.
Reese claims the officers told her Thursday they’d return in about a week with professional deer handlers to remove the animal.
“I raised it all this time, what’s the harm of keeping him here?,” Reese asked. “I let him out of the cage, we play together in the front yard and he’s never hurt me. He’s never done anything wrong. He is just so sweet.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Pamela Brown, Jake Tapper and Dan Merica, CNN
Joe Sterling and Darran Simon, CNN
Terry Sater, WISN
Ian Kerner, CNN