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Park to let 2 deer walk on wild side

Weeki Wachee Spring will take what it says is the unusual step of releasing two deer into the wild Friday.

Not only are deer larger than most of the animals the attraction releases to the wild, "but they're a very skittish, a very high-strung animal, and they can be imprinted very easily," said Dan Wilson, a spokesman for Florida Leisure Acquisition Corp., the attraction's parent company.

Imprinting is the process in which an animal forms a bond with its mother.

Humans' feeding and caring for wild animals causes obvious problems for the animal. That is especially true for animals, such as deer, that should have a healthy fear of people, Wilson said.

"That's one of the things that makes a deer different from a mockingbird or a sparrow," which can safely accept food from humans without any danger of being killed, Wilson said.

The two deer are twins, which is unusual for white-tailed deer, he said.

Their mother could not be returned because she was taken from people who were illegally caring for her and made her too tame to survive in the wild.

The Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission turned the deer over to the Weeki Wachee park three years ago after taking her from the people. The spring has a program for rehabilitating wild animals.

Rehabilitation workers at the spring have carefully avoided unnecessary contact with the two fawns, which were born in August, Wilson said. Citing the need for their safety, he would not give the exact location of the release site.

But he said that feeders will be kept nearby until the deer adapt to life in the wild.

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