Shooting Of Utah Family’s ‘Pet’ Deer Prompts DWR Changes

Mar 5, 2020, 12:36 AM | Updated: Jun 22, 2022, 3:50 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — A new bill has been introduced in the state legislature after a Southern Utah family’s pet deer was shot on private property by a Department of Wildlife and Resources officer. The incident sparked community outrage and led to new euthanasia policies in the state.

Sadee the deer became a regular at a home in Antimony after Cole Montague saved her as a baby and brought her home. Years later, she’s become a sort of catalyst for change in Utah.

“We’ve taken a bad situation and turned it into good,” Montague said.

The “bad situation” began on January 8 when a DWR officer got a call about a dog in town that had been stomped on and killed by a deer. That call lead the officer to the Montague property and to Sadee. When the officer couldn’t capture Sadee on their property, he shot her, but she survived.

“I just don’t like the way they handled the situation,” Montague said.

And neither did his family and many leaders and members of the community.

Their demand for answers ultimately lead the DWR to apologize and review how it handles its euthanasia policy, especially in cases involving potentially domesticated wildlife.

And more than two months later, the Montague family’s fight for change brought them to the state capitol.

“We will take this as a lesson,” said Brian Steed, executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources which also oversees DWR. “Being good neighbors and having some restraint is absolutely called for.”

Steed again acknowledged the situation could have been handled better and noted internal changes the department has already made to avoid a situation like this in the future.

“We worked hard with DWR,” said Rep. Phil Lyman, sponsor of House Bill 417, Wildlife Amendments. “It wasn’t an effort to poke them in the eye or embarrass them more than they were already embarrassed.”

Lyman’s bill would require officers to notify owners before taking wildlife from private property unless “there is a threat to public safety or exigent circumstances exist.”

“Have some respect for the people that might be affected by the taking of an animal,” Lyman said.

The Committee meeting’s positive exchange and testimony was welcome news for Montague.

“I think a lot of good will come out of it,” he said.

As for Sadee, she doesn’t wander too far from their property anymore.

“She stays a little closer to home now,” he said.

But the change she’s helped bring about has now gone far beyond what’s become her home.

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Shooting Of Utah Family’s ‘Pet’ Deer Prompts DWR Changes