Sometimes something special happens between wildlife and humans. A deer was born in a cemetery, and then her mother was killed. The fawn grew up on the cemetery grounds with a sixth sense for the humans who go there to bury loved ones and mourn their loss. They named her Ella and this is her story.
On Memorial Day weekend in 2011, a baby deer was discovered at Elmwood Cemetery in Kansas City, Missouri. She was curled up in the courtyard of a family mausoleum awaiting the return of her mother from foraging. Ella and her mom had a few months together before the adult deer left cemetery property one day and was hit by a car on the road. Ella became an orphan.
Cemetery staff consulted with wildlife biologists about the best plan for Ella. They had two choices: release her into the wild or keep her at Elmwood. The former was decided against because transporting Ella could cause a very high risk that she would die of fright. That can happen to deer.
So, Ella became a resident deer at the 43 acre cemetery. This option also held risks and included the hazards of traffic, feral animals and interference by people. The cemetery is located in a city with a high population. After a short time, Ella’s instinct to forage the land for survival kicked in and she thrived.
The longer she was there, the more curious she became of the humans who visited her home. She would walk up to them and watch at a distance. In time, the distance became shorter and shorter. Ella would seem to sense a grieving family and hold vigil during the burial. She attended weddings at the chapel and welcomed the many guests who came to Elmwood Cemetery to catch a sight of the deer who called the cemetery her home. Some took photos of her and some aspiring artists even painted her portrait. Watch a brief video of how gentle she was with humans.
People were not the only ones Ella took a shining to. Last year, she bonded with a stray dog. They were best buds. Popular local opinion said Ella and the dog should remain together, but a rescue group called Wayside Waifs stepped in last December to re-home the pup. “Wildlife can survive the winter but a stray dog can’t,” said Wayside spokeswoman Jennie Rinas in a phone interview with Care2.
The dog was adopted by a loving family and named Moxxie. They were planning on a visit to see Ella, but sadly, it was not to be. Ella was shot to death on Sunday, August 4th.
The tragedy has raised a lot of ire with local citizens. They don’t understand how someone could do such a callous deed. She wasn’t shot for food because her body remained at the cemetery and had not been disturbed.
A call to the Kansas City Police Department confirmed there have been no leads reported to date. Joe DeBold, with the Missouri Department of Conservation, told me there is no forensic evidence because Ella was quickly cremated. Warm weather had the potential to speed deterioration of her body. Therefore no necropsy was performed and the bullet was not retrieved.
“If we had the bullet we could match it to the gun that killed her,” said DeBold. “Now the only thing we can hope for is that someone will come forward with knowledge of the shooter’s identity.” With zero evidence, the only way to catch Ella’s killer is through citizen tips. “The person who did this will most likely brag about it,” said DeBold. That is the current expectation.
Wayside Waifs has paid for Ella’s cremation and urn. She will be laid to rest at Elmwood Cemetery with a memorial plaque. Her unusual ability to soothe the suffering of human visitors at the cemetery will long be remembered.
A Facebook page called “Remembering Ella” has been set up. More photos of this exceptional creature can be viewed there. Elmwood Cemetery President John Weilert wrote a loving memorial to Ella in Elmwood’s recent newsletter.
Rest in peace, Ella. You have touched so many lives with your gentle and generous spirit.
If anyone has any information about Ella’s shooting, please contact the Kansas City Police Tip Line at 816-474-TIPS (8477). It would be devastating not to find the perpetrator of this heinous crime.
Spread the word and ask anyone you may know in the Kansas City area to report any suspected knowledge in Ella’s death to the police. In Defense of Animals is offering a $1,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Ella’s shooter.
All photos from Remembering Ella Facebook page