Charges dropped against Wisconsin deer's rescuer

Charlotte the white-tailed doe. (Keri Wiginton/ Chicago Tribune)

Authorities today dropped charges against the rescuer of Charlotte the deer, the fawn that was targeted for execution by the state of Wisconsin but was saved by a governor’s pardon.

Tribune readers rallied in support of the deer and its rescuer, lobbying Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s office and the Walworth County district attorney after reading about the case in John Kass’ column Thursday.

“Charlotte’s doing well,” said Marvin Graaf, 49, of Lake Geneva, who cared for the baby deer on his horse farm after its mother was killed by a car about 15 months ago.

“I opened up the barn this morning,” he said. “I left the horse food out. She ate with the horses. They’re together still.”

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said Graaf needed to give up Charlotte to be euthanized because she was in a known Chronic Wasting Disease area; state authorities said the deer had been domesticated and couldn’t be released to the wild. Graaf refused to hand her over.

He was scheduled to appear in court in Walworth County four days before Christmas, charged with unauthorized taking of deer from the wild and facing as much as 8 months in jail and and up to $2,000 fine.

But Tribune readers called and emailed state and county officials Thursday, demanding they spare the deer. Walker instructed DNR to save Charlotte. State authorities say they’re working on finding the fawn a new home, perhaps at a wildlife refuge.

Prosecutors dropped charges against Graaf today; the assistant district attorney on the case declined to comment. Graaf said he’s relieved he won’t have to appear in court but says he wants to make sure the state comes up with a suitable home for Charlotte.

“Until I see some plan and know she’s going to be safe, I’ll be skeptical,” Graaf said.

chicagobreaking@tribune.com