Deer Wars Intensify as State Agency Bans Captive Imports

State wildlife agencies throughout the country are grappling with numerous issues related to white-tailed deer and other cervids as well as legislatures trying to strip or shift agency powers.

Enclosures often pit landowners and hunters against state wildlife officials and others in a never-ending debate.

Enclosures often pit landowners and hunters against state wildlife officials and others in a never-ending debate.

One of the biggest issues in the last few years has been captive deer farming and shooting preserves. Advocates say that where legal, they’re merely doing what they enjoy and landowners argue that they should be able to do what they want with their property. Opponents say wildlife belongs to the public and point to ethical concerns about shooting deer, elk and other game inside a fence.

Indiana and Missouri are among the latest states to deal with the captive deer issue. Now, Kentucky’s state veterinarian has banned all imports of captive deer from Indiana because of concerns about transmittable diseases.

Captive deer imports already were banned from Pennsylvania and Ohio thanks to chronic wasting disease in high-fence farms and quarantine situations in those states. Because Indiana had captive deer from high-fence farms in Pennsylvania and Ohio, Kentucky state veterinarian Robert Stout issued the ban on Indiana deer.

“Indiana has received (deer) over the years from both Pennsylvania and Ohio herds,” Stout wrote in a memo describing the import ban according to the Indianapolis Star. “Therefore, until such time that a comprehensive epidemiologic investigation is completed by both (the U.S. Department of Agriculture) and impacted states, importation into Kentucky from Indiana herds is temporarily suspended.”

Shawn Schafer, executive director of the North American Deer Farmers Association, said it’s common for state veterinarians to close borders for short periods out of concerns about livestock diseases.

“It shows the system works and the program is working,” Schafer said.

Indiana legislators are considering several bills involving high fence operations. Kentucky officials aren’t taking any chances, though.

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