A South Carolina family is asking hunters not to kill one of their members.
They’ve even started a social media campaign with the hashtag request, “#dontshootGeorge.”
George is the Funderburk’s pet deer.
They don’t have George fenced inside of a pen, instead choosing to let him run free in the woods around their Chester County property.
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So the family is doing what they can to protect their beloved pet from getting shot during deer hunting season.
In addition to the Facebook posts and page dedicated to George, they are also trying to identify him, so hunters will be alerted which deer is George.
“Local Hunters ... Please don’t shoot the (7-point deer) with the yellow tape around his antlers. If you see him, its George!” Kena Lucas Funderburk posted on her Facebook page.
“He was raised and released between Great Falls and Richburg in Chester County, S.C. #dontshootGeorge”
The Funderburks adopted George when he was just days old, Kena said in an interview with The State. His mother had been hit by a car and killed along the side of a South Carolina road, where the fawn was discovered in June 2016.
It was a learning process for the fawn and the family, according to Kena. While they discovered what formula to use and how to raise a deer as a pet, George was gradually learning how to eat from a bottle and go to the bathroom.
George started to grow, and formed bonds with the family dog and especially with the Funderburks’ children — Kaleb and Laney.
When George was close to 6 months old, Kena said the family began leaving him outside by himself. Because he had food and shelter, and a connection to the Funderburks, George stayed in the large rural property for the next year, even though he could come and go as he pleased.
Kena said they knew George would eventually leave the family property, which he did. It was not an easy choice to give him the freedom to live on his own, but one they felt was the right decision.
“We struggled with how we looked at his life, it was a debate of quality vs. quantity,” Kena said of the decision to not keep George in a pen. “We decided it would have been inhumane to to have him in a pen and keep him from running free.”
So far, their worst fears have not been realized. After spending stretches of three and six months in the woods , George has continued to return “home.” He has been healthy every time.
But Kena said her family still want to do everything they can to ensure he’ll remain safe.
“It was constantly weighing on our minds. We don’t want to harm, endanger or put him at risk,” Kena said. “There are a lot of tough decisions when you are raising a wild animal.”
That’s why she wants to remind everyone not to disturb a fawn in the wild, under normal circumstances.
“In the wild, mothers do leave them and return, so if you come across a fawn all alone, do not take it out of the woods,” stressed Kena, who said her family’s decision to adopt George was different because they knew his mother was dead and he would not survive on his own. “It’s not easy. I don’t want people to think they can get a pet deer because they are so small and cute when they are fawns.”
Mother deer can leave their fawns unattended for up to 12 hours per day in the search for food, according to an article posted by The Dodo, which said people who think they are helping in these scenarios are actually “blindly kidnapped the fawn from her mother — almost completely crushing her chances of survival.”
Now more than 2 years old, George has gotten over the hurdle of making it on his own without his mother, like something out of the Walt Disney movie “Bambi.” The Funderburks are doing what they can to enhance his chances of survival with the antler tape and social media posts.
Kena said 95 percent of the feedback she has received, especially from hunters, has been positive and in support of George.
“Most hunters are saying ‘You’ll get a pass from us,’ “ said Kena, pointing out the yellow tape on George’s ever-growing antlers helped a hunter recognize him Monday.
She said he was spotted nearly 15 miles from their property by a hunter. She wrote on Facebook that is “a long way from home, so he’s getting around.”
She’s also hoping hunters that do spot George out in the woods will let her know where they see him, and report that back to her. That way she can keep track of him and know he is still alive.
But Kena did tell The State that she knows it’s possible George could be killed, by a hunter or another malady.
“I would hate to see that happen, but he’s had a great life,” Kena said. “Unfortunately he’s a wild animal, and that could happen.”
Perhaps that’s why when George does return to the family property he’s treated like a king. Kena said everyone gets excited, and George will get a lot of treats to eat. That usually includes apples, mangoes, or crackers, but she said her parents have been known to give him chicken and biscuits.
“When he comes home, he’s pretty spoiled.”