A Kansas family is reeling after a game warden shot their “extraordinary” pet deer multiple times in the yard of their farm.
Taryn Mcgaughey captured footage of a Dodge City, Kansas, game warden following the deer named Faline around the yard. One shot is heard before Taryn bursts into tears and stops recording. She says the game warden then went on to shoot the deer four more times.
“They followed her around our horse pen. The first shot in the leg by a handgun,” Taryn tells PEOPLE. “And then they followed her around our property shooting her four more times in the back like target practice. He told me it would be done as humane as possible.”
According to Mark Rankin, law enforcement assistant director for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, the deer was initially shot in the “body cavity.”
“They shot several more times because at that point it was moving away from them,” he continues. “So it took several shots to put it down finally. Unfortunately, that was not the plan, but that’s how it turned out. They were not shooting at the leg, they were shooting at half the body. To shoot it in the head, you’d have to get closer than what they were able to get at that point.”
Taryn’s mother Kim Mcgaughey, who brought Faline into her Ulysses, Kansas, home 22 months ago, was in violation of the law by inhabiting the deer since she did not qualify for either domestic deer breeder or wildlife rehabilitation permits in Kansas, says Rankin.
According to Rankin, his department exhausted a number of solutions, including contacting a veterinarian about tranquilization — he says the vet could not properly assign a dosage since the animal was wild — and catching the estimated 150-pound doe with catch poles, the latter option he says was too dangerous since it could overpower staff.
Rankin also says that if the deer had been infected by chronic wasting disease (a contagious neurological disease affecting deer, elk and moose), moving her a far distance would risk the spread of infection. Officials at a zoo his division spoke with did not want to take that risk.
But Taryn says she felt the wildlife officials were “backtracking.”
“None of it really makes sense to me. How they came in and handled themselves,” she says. “Even if they didn’t want us to do something about it, they could have gotten a hold of sanctuaries or went a little bit further. We had a vet that would come out and euthanize her for us. He knew that she was a pet.”
The nearly two-year long family-pet relationship began when Kim walked to a neighbor’s farm after hearing a deer was disrupting their crops. Kim learned the deer’s mother was shot, and Taryn says her mother instantly connected with her. The deer, whom she named Faline from the Disney classic Bambi — followed her home, with no lead, for four miles.
The deer quickly became part of the family. Taryn says Faline thought she was a dog, bumping the door of the house when she wanted to come in and napping in the house. She also played with the family’s goats and horses and splashed in the swimming pool with Taryn’s 8-year-old son. Kim even nurtured Faline’s broken leg, administering a pipe around it with bandaging tape. The deer was never confined and frequently jumped over the fence during her recovery.
Taryn says their community is rallying around the family following the emotional incident. On Thursday, Taryn posted on her Facebook using the hashtag #justiceforfaline. She says she also has received numerous messages expressing indignant sentiments, even from hunters.
“[Faline] was my mom’s pet. They loved each other dearly,” Taryn says. “My son hit the floor when he found out about this. That was his little buddy, she followed him everywhere. She was definitely part of the family.”
For their part, Rankin says, “This is a regrettable situation. We’re sorry it happened. We’re researching how we can change our policies so this type of incident doesn’t happen again.”