Wildlife officials in Missouri are reminding homeowners to not keep wild deer as pets after a recent viral photo showed a deer running with the word "pet" painted on its side.

According to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, members of the Missouri Department of Conservation were called to investigate a report of a deer with a word painted on its side.

By the time officers arrived on the scene in rural Festus, the deer had left the area.

A photo provided by a landowner shows a deer with "pet" written on its side in paint. The deer is also wearing what appears to be a collar.

"Wild animals should not be considered pets, and particularly deer should not be moved from their habitat as MDC works on chronic wasting disease," the sheriff's office shared on Facebook.

Missouri Department of Conservation captain Scott Corley told the Belleville News Democrat that the deer is a young buck that is estimated to be approximately 2 years old.

"Somebody most likely took that deer out of the wild as a fawn and tried to keep it as a pet," Corley told the newspaper.

He believes the deer was painted with the word "pet" to help keep it safe during hunting season.

Unfortunately, it's also mating season for the deer meaning increased aggression among males. Couple that with the fact that the deer has a lack of fear around humans and the situation gets a little more dire.

"When they took him out of the wild the first year... he didn't have all those hormones running through him," Corley said. "Now, he can be aggressive and it can cause problems."

The department is still searching for the deer at this time.

Missouri currently ranks 20th among states with the most registered hunters. Here's a breakdown of the numbers for every state.

States with the most registered hunters

Stacker analyzed data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine which states have the most registered hunters. Read on to see how your state ranks on Stacker’s list.

Gallery Credit: Meagan Drillinger

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