Rare West Virginia deer harvest sparks major controversy online

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) – Years ago an injured baby fawn, which was white with brown spots, was brought to Kanawha County veterinarian Paul Gunnoe.

“At that time it had contracted tendons, it means it couldn’t stand,” Paul Gunnoe

Gunnoe tells me he cared for the deer, which he named “Skip” until the buck was healthy enough to roam free.

“In my barn we opened up one of the stalls for him so he could come and go as he pleased if he wanted to rest there that was fine if he wanted to eat there that was fine,” added Gunnoe.

Skip was a well known and loved member of the community due to his kind demeanor and rare look, that’s why when a photo was posted of a proud teenaged hunter and his harvest, people were infuriated. The kill was Skip.

“I was devastated everyone was devastated,” said Gunnoe.

While some of the tens-of-thousands of posts and comments on social media supported the hunter, most condemned his actions with profanity and threats. The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources did an investigation into the kill, and they tell 13 news there were no hunting violations found, but the outrage continues.

“I put an orange collar on him, custom made inch-and-a-half wide collar on him right before the rut this year…just hoping and thinking if some hunter had him in his scope they would choose to look, and look away and do the ethical thing… Just because it was a legal kill doesn’t mean it was the right thing to do,” says Gunnoe.

The hunter’s father declined an interview but sent a full statement:

Statement from Anthony Runyan
Regarding the harvest of a piebald deer
December 11, 2019
 
On December 3, 2019, my 17-year-old son was hunting alone on our vacant property on Spring Hill Mountain in West Virginia during a legal hunting season when he shot and harvested a piebald deer. Unbeknownst to him, the wild animal held a beloved status in the immediate area.
 
My son obeys and respects the hunting guidelines set by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR). Further, he respects all of God’s creatures. His intent was never to harm a wild animal that was loved by some.
 
After my son fired a shot and tracked the deer, he noticed a collar around its neck. The collar on the deer’s brown neck was unnoticeable in the woods from the 60 to 70 yards distance from where he was shooting. Contrary to what has been said, the originally bright orange collar was dingy and faded from time in the wild and there was no orange paint anywhere on the animal. The collar had no identifying information and did not belong to DNR.
 
My son immediately contacted me, and I personally met with the DNR at its headquarters the following morning, presenting the collar and all details of what occurred. The DNR has conducted a full investigation and confirmed no ownership of the deer and that my son followed all regulations and guidelines related to the hunt.
 
As is customary of hunters in order to honor the animal, my son and I took a photo of the deer. Following the discussion with the DNR, the photo was innocently posted on Facebook. As residents of South Charleston, a city located a short distance away, our family was unaware of the emotional connection some individuals in the immediate area had with the deer when the Facebook post was made. Strangers have circulated a video online showing an individual with similar features to my son interacting with the deer, but my son had never seen or interacted with the deer.
 
As soon as that information about the deer’s status came to light, we immediately removed the post and photo out of reverence for those with an association to the deer.
 
We are saddened by the vitriolic response from those online who have continued to share the post, many of whom are strangers from across the nation who have no connection to this incident or our beloved state and who have threatened physical harm and even death toward my 17-year-old son as well as our extended family.
 
While the DNR supports my son’s actions and finds no wrongdoings in his hunt, we are remorseful of this incident and unknowingly posting the photo of the beloved wild deer. We meant no emotional harm.  

Skip was a piebald deer, his kind makes up just two percent of all whitetail deer.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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