In what will surely be referred to as "Bambi's Law," Manitoba's conservation minister has changed the way officers will enforce the provincial Wildlife Act.
After a tame deer was shot dead by Conservation officers on the Windy Bay Colony last weekend, Gord Mackintosh changed Manitoba's wildlife-euthanasia policies Wednesday.
As well, the conservation minister ordered a review of the incident, when wildlife officers shot the adopted deer, named Bambi, as some members of the Hutterite colony who raised it watched in horror.
Mackintosh said he's also ordered a new directive that wildlife officers may only kill hand-reared wildlife as a last resort.
The Bambi directive means wildlife officers can't shoot wildlife just because it's illegal to take in a wild animal and raise it.
"I've asked that a clear directive be developed to make it clear that euthanasia is a last resort. It is to be done in a way that considers all humane options," the minister said.
Last weekend, a colonist concerned Bambi was growing antlers called the wildlife department. Two officers went to the colony near Pilot Mound and shot the deer that had been raised on the colony since last spring.
Some members of the colony watched the killing through their windows.
The incident outraged colonists and incensed the public. The minister said he's also ordered wildlife officials to reach out to the Hutterite colony.
"The department will offer to meet with the colony to go over what happened with them," Mackintosh said. "It may well have been insensitive to those who were there. I believe we should all demonstrate empathy for the living world."
Ernie Maendel, who rescued the deer as a fawn last spring, said the colony will likely accept the friendly offer to meet with wildlife officials.
He welcomed the change in policy.
"Some good will come out of it," he said.
It's illegal to take in a wild animal and raise it in Manitoba. Until now, the department's policy has been to euthanize wild animals that have been tamed, unless there is a sanctuary available.
The minister emphasized there are times when euthanasia can't be justified as a judgment call officers make on the scene.
"The directive is critical to this one," he said. "When there is no immediate risk to the public, euthanasia efforts have to be approved at a supervisory level," Mackintosh said.
In Manitoba, there are no sanctuaries that take in injured or orphaned deer or bears, a situation that led wildlife officers to seize a bear cub from a St. Malo home and release it into the wild last summer, despite a public furor.
The shooting of Bambi serves as a lesson for everyone when it comes to wildlife, Mackintosh said.
"I'm compelled to strongly remind Manitobans that while we have to demonstrate empathy for the living world, please leave the wildlife in the wild," he said.
Phones were ringing off the hook Wednesday at the Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre as people reacted in outrage to the way Bambi was shot on the Hutterite colony.
A volunteer at the centre, located just south of the city on Highway 59, said she took calls from people all day.
The centre does not take in deer or bears, she said.
The province's supervisory order is a case of common sense, Mackintosh emphasized.
"I don't want to overstate it, because I know when you find an animal that's just been hit at the side of the road, it may be the most practical thing to do is to euthanize it at that point, without calling it in," he said.
But there are clearly cases where it pays to wait.
"It's in circumstances like this where there's time and there isn't an immediate risk to the public, we'd like to see some checks and balances," he said.
In addition to the review and the new directive on euthanasia, the minister said he'll also order enhanced training for wildlife officers after the Bambi shooting.