Deer deaths aren’t uncommon in summer months, especially in the Southeast and Midwest, once temperatures climb and if lack of rainfall concentrates watering holes or dries up sites.
But when 50 deer die in a high-fenced breeding facility, that raises immediate eyebrows and questions. It also gets state wildlife and agricultural officials involved pretty darn quickly to see if it is something that needs further scrutiny and involves any wild deer near the facility. Federal wildlife or agricultural officials also may be called in to help investigate the cause of the mysterious deaths.
All of that is happening in Alabama due to a massive die-off at a breeding facility within the last month. Ray Metzler, acting chief of the Alabama DCNR Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, told Deer & Deer Hunting late Tuesday afternoon that the facility is in the northeast part of the state but that DCNR officials are not releasing the name of the facility or the owner out of discretion as the investigation is ongoing.
The Alabama DCNR issued this press release Tuesday afternoon:
A recent die-off at a licensed deer-breeding facility in north Alabama has killed more than 50 whitetail deer. Preliminary tests conducted by pathologists at the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) laboratories have revealed that the contributing cause of the incident is viral in nature, although further testing continues.
Since the outbreak began in May, the die-off has been contained to the breeding facility and is thought to pose no threat to humans, pets or livestock outside the facility.
Earlier this year, the facility passed a routine herd inspection, which is conducted twice annually as part of a joint monitoring program between the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) and the ADAI. Breeding facilities are required by law to report any animal deaths.
When the deer began to die, the breeding facility owner reported the deaths to WFF and ADAI as required and has fully cooperated to contain the outbreak. The WFF and ADAI are working closely with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to determine the exact cause of the deaths. ADAI pathologists and veterinarians are still working to determine the origins of the noted pathogens.
“Artificial conditions such as the penning of multiple species together like wild sheep and deer can spread pathogens that are normally restricted to one species,” said Kevin Dodd, WFF Chief of Enforcement. “Although the deer in the affected facility were legally acquired in state, this incident demonstrates the potential outcome of introducing new diseases from areas outside the state.”
“Incidents such as this demonstrate the importance of the strict biosecurity measures Alabama keeps in place for its native wildlife and farm animals,” said Chuck Sykes, WFF Director. “Restricting the import or movement of potentially infected animals is a fundamental measure that was put in place to protect the health and safety of Alabama’s wildlife, livestock and citizens.”
Licensed game breeders in Alabama supply deer for stocking hunting enclosures across the state. These breeding facilities are subject to routine testing to minimize the introduction and spread of detrimental pathogens. That routine monitoring of herd health led to the notification of the die-off at the north Alabama breeding facility. This resulted in the identification of the pathogens involved and a plan of action for the breeder was implemented.
Individuals with knowledge of illegally imported wildlife in Alabama including any species of deer, wild goats or feral pigs are encouraged to contact WFF via its toll-free GAMEWATCH line, (800) 272-4263. Rewards for information leading to an arrest may be available. If you encounter a sick or dead deer, please report the incident to the nearest WFF district office. To learn more about licensed game breeders and Alabama’s GAMEWATCH program, visit outdooralabama.com or call (334) 242-3469.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.
The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries promotes agriculture and industries within the State and is required by law to administer and enforce regulatory laws, rules, and regulations. These duties involve the inspection of numerous commodities for the protection of consumers. For more information visit www.agi.alabama.gov.