Wild Tails In Rehab


Courtesy Photo

Kaytlee Ingersoll feeds a fawn at the Bethel Acres Whitetail Rehabåilitation.

Pottawatomie County has long had an eagle aviary where injured eagles are lovingly cared for by a Citizen Potawatomi staff, but did you know this county is also home to licensed wildlife rehabilitators where injured, orphaned and abandoned deer are rescued, healed and released to go back to their homes in the woods?

Its name is Bethel Acres Whitetail Rehabilitation and the two volunteers who run it have been doing the rescuing of injured, orphaned and abandoned fawns, the healing and release to the wilds for 10 years.

Kerry Ingersoll, who teaches kindergarten at Bethel Public Schools, and her husband, Warren Ingersoll, code enforcement officer for the City of Shawnee, are the volunteer operators of the whitetail rehab near their home in the Bethel area.

Both are native Oklahomans. She was born and reared in Bartlesville and came to Shawnee to attend Oklahoma Baptist University. He was born in Shawnee, raised in Shawnee and Bethel, graduated from Bethel High School and continued his education at Gordon Cooper Technology Center.

They're assisted in the deer work, when needed, by their eight children, ranging in age from eight to 18.

Their family has grown through their work in foster care, guardianship as well and their two biological children.

"The kids do love to help take care of the animals," Kerry Ingersoll said. Kids feel a close connection with animals, she indicated.

The Ingersolls started their wildlife care project a decade ago after finding there was no whitetail rehabilitator in Pottawatomie County.

"We contacted the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife and asked what was needed to become a licensed rehabilitator," Kerry Ingersoll said. They learned what it would take to house and care for whitetail deer and fawns and got to work preparing a place that met state standards.

"You need fenced enclosures eight feet high," she explained.  They have a few different areas to house deer as they are quarantined when they first come to the rehab to ensure they do not have any disease that can be shared with the other fawns. Once cleared, the fawns can be joined together with the other deer. The Ingersolls have a loafing shed the deer can go into to escape the elements; however, they strive to "keep their habitat as close to their natural habitat as possible."

"We've had to do quite a bit of research," she said. "When you get your license you have to be able to care for the fawns and have to prove you have been educated in how to take care of the animals we care for."

They are required to be inspected by a game warden annually, to keep their license in effect.

"On simple things, we are able to treat them on site, but for the more difficult" injuries or sickness, "we take the deer to our veterinarian of record." Rehabilitators are required to have a vet of record to treat native wildlife. 

One example was a deer that had received a bad injury from a dog attack. "Its tail had to be removed by the vet.

"It is common to get fawns that we're mauled by dogs," she said.

Many of the injured deer they care for are found by people who happen onto them.

Often they find baby fawns orphaned when their mothers were hit on a highway, poached, or killed in some other way.

"A few years ago, a fawn came in from the Grand Lake area. A farmer noticed vultures circling and went to make sure it wasn't one of his cattle when he found a fawn laying with its mother who had been killed." 

Last year a fawn was brought in that had just been born. The mother was killed, hit on the road.

"People often stumble across a fawn and call the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife. In our area, they are directed to us. Some look online for a local wildlife rehabilitator and contact us that way."

In order to possess native wildlife, individuals must be a licensed rehabilitator, Mrs. Ingersoll said. "There is quite a hefty fine if you are found to have native wildlife in your care. The animal must be surrendered to a rehab facility."

This year they have not taken in as many fawns as in years past. "This was due to a statewide cease movement issued by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife in May for all deer," she said. "No rehab facility was able to accept fawns until that was lifted. This came right at baby season."

The ban was lifted at the end of May."  

This year they took in a fawn that was unable to walk. After working extensively with it, it was up and running like nothing had been wrong.

They received another that had been hit by a car and was blind in one eye. It took a few months, but once it had healed and learned how to compensate with one eye, it was released into a lower fenced area where it stayed around for a while then eventually jumped the fence to join up with other deer.

"This is the best case scenario, to keep them out of their natural habitat as little as possible," she said. "We love that they can have a safe place out of the deer pen to re-acclimate to finding food themselves then gain the confidence to head back out on their own. Deer are only considered captive when they are contained inside an eight-foot fence.

"When they're older they're harder to keep, because they're wild. We try to get them better and send them out as fast as we can," she said.

The Ingersolls typically do not release fawns until springtime. "We like to keep them a little longer to get them through hunting season before releasing them. Hunting season begins Oct. 1 and runs through January," she said.

"We get several injured deer in a year that can't be helped and they have to be put down. We've had some go through hay balers, some attacked by dogs, injured beyond what can be helped, hit by cars or have some other illness that would cause their mother to abandon them. Sadly, we are not able save them all.

"It's a case by case thing. You never know what's going to walk through the door," she added.

Several years ago, a little one in foster care, while helping to care for a new fawn intake said, "You take care of the deer when they don't have a mommy and you take care of me when I don't have a mommy."  

Courtesy Photo

A young whitetail deer is caught in a barbed-wire fence.


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