PETOSKEY — The Department of Natural Resources killed six animals as part of its enforcement on a warrant at an Emmet County farm, known as an animal rescue operation.
State officials cited the farm for not being licensed to rehabilitate wild animals.
Kei Ju Farm, located in Petoskey, is widely known for its open-door policy for both community members and animals. This year, the DNR received a complaint about owner, Julie Hall, rehabilitating wild animals on the farm. The farm is not a Michigan Licensed Rehabilitation facility.
Lt. Jim Gorno of the District 3 division of the DNR, said a year or so prior to this complaint, Julie Hall, owner of the farm, had been warned about rehabilitating wild animals. As the recent complaint followed a previous warning, the DNR moved forward with charges.
The charge, a misdemeanor, is for holding wild animals in captivity without permit.
“That Thursday, the DNR rolled in with four trucks. They knew exactly where all the animals were,” Hall said.
“They killed the deer right here on the spot,” Hall said.
The small deer was taken in as a fawn at the end of fall. At the time, the deer was only two weeks old. Hall had used milk from her goats to help the deer regain strength, and had a pen for it on the farm.
“She was jumping in and out of the fence and she had other deer friends up here behind us. In fact, the following week, the little deer friend that she was playing with up there kept coming around the pen and coming around the pen and looking for her,” Hall said.
This kind of interaction, though endearing, is one of the main concerns for the DNR.
“What happens is the wildlife is raised, sometimes if you let it go, they become a nuisance or even a disease issue here. Last fall, or a year and a half ago, there was a tamed whitetail buck that was in the Petoskey area that was causing issues,” said Gorno.
“When it gets to mating season, it can be very dangerous to people and other animals. This buck was found and had to be euthanized because it was a danger to the public,” said Gorno.
Another animal removed from the farm was a raccoon Hall had named Sassy.
“I kindly, broken-heartedly and gently handed him my animals. The only animal that threw a fit was poor Sassy. She didn’t know what was happening — she had Down syndrome and was a blind raccoon,” Hall said.
Some animals that Hall had acquired were brought to her from members of the community. One animal, Po, was a one-legged crow brought to her by young children in Alanson.
Lt. Gorno said he understands the compassion Hall and the community have toward vulnerable animals. He said the DNR receives hundreds of calls a year of citizens encountering an at-risk animal in the wild.
“That’s why the DNR is in place, we have places for these animals,” Gorno said.
“We just can’t rehab every animal that we get a call on. I understand that Julie took in everything. But what happens is, she has to call us and say she has it,” Gorno said.
“We put out press releases every spring saying, do not pick up wildlife, do not keep wildlife, do not take wildlife out of the wild. It’s illegal and it’s not good for wildlife. Most of the time it’s almost a death sentence for these animals, because a lot of them can’t be re-released after they are raised or taken by humans,” Gorno said.