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Shooting orphaned wildlife last resort

Rules changed after killing of Bambi

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Conservation officers shot Bambi last winter at the Windy Bay colony after it was deemed potentially dangerous. Colony members were raising the deer as a pet.

EVIE-LYNN MAENDEL PHOTO Enlarge Image

Conservation officers shot Bambi last winter at the Windy Bay colony after it was deemed potentially dangerous. Colony members were raising the deer as a pet.

Bambi didn't die in vain.

In a series of changes known as Bambi's law, the province Tuesday made good on a promise to never again shoot a pet deer in public view.

"It's nice that they changed the law. They shouldn't be able to come out and do what they did... " said Ernie Maendel, the Hutterite elder who rescued the orphaned fawn last February.

Members of the Windy Bay colony in southwestern Manitoba opened their hearts to the deer. They called it Bambi and fed it fresh bread and sweet tea. It slept on a bed of straw underneath a spruce tree on the main street.

It was shot dead in front of Maendel's home in a clash between the colony's animal lovers and a pair of Manitoba Conservation officers toting a loaded rifle.

The shooting evoked a furor from an enraged public after members of the Hutterite colony near Pilot Mound went public.

Within a day, the province took decisive action.

Conservation Minister Gord Mackintosh had reporters on speed dial to get a message out to the public: The province would changing the rules on shooting orphaned wildlife.

The quick response was followed by an order to send provincial wildlife officials to Windy Bay in the dead of winter.

Officials from the province delivered a face-to-face apology to the angry residents and outlined the basics of the proposed Bambi's law to appease them.

On Tuesday, the province issued a statement that the paperwork's done and the promise has been kept.

Bambi's law isn't an amendment to existing wildlife statutes, which spared the necessity of trying to push changes through a legislature locked down in a Conservative-led filibuster this summer.

Instead, the changes were in the form of an administrative regulation known as an operational directive. It was issued at the deputy minister level of the department, meaning there's no wait and it becomes effectively immediately.

"Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship advises new protocols are being introduced to make euthanasia a last resort if injured or orphaned wildlife are not able to be rehabilitated," the announcement said.

The protocols are effectively a new code of conduct. Conservation officers are to be issued tranquillizer kits and trained on their use.

The new rules also adhere to the Canadian Council on Animal Care guidelines, the gold standard on humane handling for wildlife.

At Windy Bay Tuesday, Maendel said the colony is pleased the province kept its promise and residents hold no grudges.

"They did come out and they did apologize and they said it would never happen again. That means something," he said. "I think bygones are bygones."

Maendel rescued the fawn and took it home last summer. Members of the colony raised it. It followed residents during walks, even showing up one Sunday for a church service. A Labrador dog named Sahara took Bambi under her care, like a surrogate mother.

Then last winter, Bambi started growing antlers and an apprehensive colonist called Manitoba Conservation about a wild deer loose on the colony.

Conservation officers answered the call early in February and after ordering people inside their homes, they shot the deer, enraging witnesses.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 24, 2013 A4

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