The owners of a wildlife rehabilitation center in south Thurston County today released 11 young deer into the wild in collaboration with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), which previously euthanized four animals at the facility due to concerns about their care.

Claudia and David Supensky, owners of For Heavens Sake Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation, transported eight of the deer from their facility in Rochester and released them on a private thousand-acre land preserve surrounded by wildlands. The other three were released at a nearby location later in the day.

WDFW worked with the Supenskys to coordinate the release, five months after state wildlife managers euthanized three fawns and an elk calf at the facility, determined to be too tame to return into the wild.

Brian Calkins, WDFW Regional Wildlife Program Manager, said the department agreed in December to consider other options for the deer remaining at the facility, even though state and national wildlife standards generally advise euthanizing animals that have lost their fear of humans.

“We looked at a variety of options, and ultimately decided that releasing the deer made the most sense,” Calkins said. “Our hope is that any of the deer that do not have a normal fear of humans will follow the lead of those that have retained their wild instincts,” Calkins said.

Calkins added that state-licensed wildlife rehabilitation facilities are specifically designed to prepare sick, injured, or orphaned wildlife for return to the wild. Despite a concerted effort, WDFW was not successful in finding an alternative, long-term placement for the Rochester deer, he said.

Washington State University, which had earlier expressed interest in taking some of those deer for inclusion in a nutritional study, ultimately decided they weren’t well-suited for the project.

“We are grateful to WDFW for giving the 11 remaining fawn time for evaluation and approving them for release,” said Claudia Supensky. “We appreciate Brian Calkins for including us during this process.”

Calkins said the Supenskys worked hard on behalf of the animals in their care, and have followed the department’s instructions to give the animals the best chance of developing the instincts needed to survive in the wild.

“The public really values the work that our wildlife rehabilitators do, and we want to support them in their efforts to prepare animals to return to the wild,” he said.

Additional information about wildlife rehabilitation in Washington is available at