Driftwood Outdoors: Captive deer classification change up for consideration

By Brandon Butler
Fayette Advertiser Outdoors Columnist

Legislation is currently working its way through the Missouri Senate (SB964) and House of Representatives (HB2031) to change the classification of captive cervids (deer) from “wildlife” to “livestock.”

The legislation aims to transfer control of captive cervids from the Department of Conservation to the Department of Agriculture. At legislative hearings held for both bills, an official Department of Agriculture representative testified in opposition of the transfer. The Department of Agriculture believes MDC should manage whitetail deer. MDC Feels the same way. There are complex issues surrounding the captive cervid industry, due mainly to Missouri’s recent discovery of CWD, which is often linked to captive cervid facilities.

As stated in last week’s column, CWD is a contagious neurological disease affecting deer, elk and moose. It causes a characteristic spongy degeneration of the brains of infected animals resulting in emaciation, abnormal behavior, loss of bodily functions and death.

CWD continues to gain prevalence in the national press. Just in the last week, the Indianapolis Star released a groundbreaking report on the captive cervid industry and the Boone & Crockett Club issued their position statement.

Ryan Sablow, an investigative journalist with the Indianapolis Star, spent over a year researching captive cervid facilities. His report “Buck Fever” has been picked up by many regional and national news outlets, and was even featured by the USA Today.

Sablow wrote, “To feed the burgeoning captive-deer industry, breeders are shipping an unprecedented number of deer and elk across state lines. With them go the diseases they carry. Captive-deer facilities have spread tuberculosis to cattle and are suspected in the spread of deadly foreign deer lice in the West. More important, The Star’s investigation uncovered compelling circumstantial evidence that the industry also has helped accelerate the spread of chronic wasting disease, an always-fatal deer disease similar to mad cow. CWD now has been found in 22 states.”

Click on this link to read and watch the entire “Buck Fever” feature: www.indystar.com/buckfever.
The Boone & Crockett Club is a national wildlife organization that exists to improve the system of conservation throughout North America. Conservation heroes, President Theodore Roosevelt and George Bird Grinnell, founded it in 1887. In regards to captive deer, the Boone & Crockett Club, states:

“The Boone and Crockett Club supports state bans on importing or exporting captive deer and elk by game farming operations in order to protect the health of native populations. The Club opposes any legislation aimed at relaxing regulations governing captive cervid breeding operations or removing management authority over such operations from state wildlife agencies.”

Read the Boone & Crockett Club’s full position statement at www.Boone-Crockett.org.

The Boone & Crockett Club promotes fair chase hunting. This means only pursing completely wild animals. The captive cervid industry sells animals to people who shoot them in a high-fence enclosure. Fair chase hunting and killing animals at shooting preserves is not the same. Keep this mind when you read about captive facilities.

For more information about captive cervids and CWD in Missouri, visit www.NoMOcwd.org.

See you down the trail…

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