SEARCY – Arkansas Game and Fish Commission officials have removed an illegal deer operation near Searcy in White County. The 15 illegal deer were removed after it was discovered that the animals had been moved in violation of state captive wildlife regulations.
The restrictions are in place to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease in the state’s deer and elk herds. CWD is lethal to deer and elk. It is related to mad cow disease found in Great Britain. With CWD, the animal’s immune system is unable to fight off the disease, and the animal deteriorates or “wastes” until death. CWD has been found in 14 states and two Canadian provinces.
According to David Goad, AGFC’s chief of wildlife management, the possibility of CWD being transmitted to Arkansas’s deer herd could have a big-time impact on Arkansas’s native deer herd.
“We absolutely have to do everything in our power to protect Arkansas’s deer herd and removing questionable animals is paramount to achieving that goal,” he explained. There is currently no cure, vaccine or live test for the disease.
Goad said the owner of the facility illegally purchased red deer and fallow deer without a state wildlife breeder dealer permit and without adequate holding facilities. The Game and Fish Commission also requires individuals to provide ownership and health documentation to obtain a state Wildlife Importation Permit before bringing certain live wildlife into the state; however, since 2002 the Commission has prohibited the import of all live cervids (including deer, elk and moose) due to ongoing concerns to prevent introduction of CWD.
“We met with the owner at his property and viewed the captive animals. We explained that he was in violation of our captive wildlife regulations and we explained his options. He elected to donate the animals.”
The meat was taken to a processing facility in Benton for distribution to various food banks through Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry. All meat is being retained at the processing facility and is not subject to release until AGFC confirms that disease testing has been completed and results are “negative” for CWD and any other disease. The tests are being conducted at a U. S. Department of Agriculture facility in Ames, Iowa.