"It is illegal to confine wildlife or secure them in an area where they are not able to roam free or come and go as they please," the West Virginia Natural Resources Police wrote on its Facebook page.
But the incident, which seems like something out of a fable, sparked debate on Facebook about the ethical relationship between humans and animals.
"If you think about it," a commenter wrote, "it's legal to hunt and kill deer, but if you let one live with you, you get charged and prosecuted."
Many voiced concern about whether the deer would be able to survive in the wild after their experience with quiet domesticity. "So they were raised by a human then just let go? That makes no sense whatsoever," one woman wrote. "I live in a region with a lot of deer and on[c]e you get them used to people it's really hard to break that. Why didn't they take them to a wildlife rehab place to learn how to be a wild deer before just chasing them off into the wild?"
Others, meanwhile, said law enforcement should just leave the man - and his deer friends - alone. "The deer is standing there looking out of the OPEN door," a commenter pointed out. "How is that confined??"