Deer Breeders File Lawsuit, Say Captive Deer Aren’t State’s Wildlife

Deer breeders in one of the nation’s biggest hunting states are challenging a long-held tenet that wildlife belongs to the state and public, instead of private actors, following the recent discovery of chronic wasting disease in captive deer.

The lawsuit against the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department requests a judge make a declaratory judgement. It also alleges that politically-appointed members of the state’s wildlife commission have engaged in backroom deals that skirt the state’s open meetings laws.

Deer breeders throughout the country will keep an eye on a lawsuit in Texas against the state's wildlife agency about who owns deer.

Deer breeders throughout the country will keep an eye on a lawsuit in Texas against the state’s wildlife agency about who owns deer.

From the Austin American-Statesman report about the lawsuit:

The lawyer for a group of deer breeders said a lawsuit was filed against the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to protect the rights of breeders and to prevent the “needless” slaughter of a captive herd following the discovery of a neurological disease in the summer.

In the lawsuit, filed Friday in state district court in Travis County, breeders Ken Bailey and Bradly Peterson are asking a judge to rule in short order — through a decision called a declaratory judgment — on ownership of captive deer.

The breeders are challenging a provision in the law that has been around for more than a century that says all deer in Texas are public property. The breeders say that captive deer held on their land should be considered private property.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department spokesman Josh Havens responded to the lawsuit with a statement. He wrote: “How we manage CWD in Texas will ultimately shape our deer hunting heritage for future generations. The impacts of this lethal neurological disease reach far beyond any facility or ranch. CWD has the potential to impact Texas’ 700,000 licensed deer hunters, their families and the thousands of people in rural communities across the state who rely on deer hunting for their livelihoods. Texas has chosen a path of reasonable and prudent measures to manage this disease in a manner that will ensure the future of our state’s most prized wildlife resource.”

Check out the full story here, and we’ll follow this as it progresses through the legal system.

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