“There are no benefits for deer hunters in the growth of the captive deer-breeding industry – only risks.”
That is the assessment of the Kip Adams, a certified wildlife biologist and Director of Education & Outreach for the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA).
QDMA is urging hunters in seven states to oppose the expansion of the deer-breeding industry, which QDMA perceives as a growing threat to wild deer and the deer-hunting heritage. Legislation designed to loosen or dismantle regulatory barriers to white-tailed deer breeding and farming is being considered in Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia.
“There are no benefits for deer hunters in the growth of the captive deer-breeding industry – only risks,” said Kip Adams, QDMA’s Director of Education & Outreach and a certified wildlife biologist. “It is QDMA’s mission to protect the future of white-tailed deer and our hunting heritage, and we oppose anything that puts those at risk.”
In opposing the proliferation of “deer breeding,” QDMA is referring to captive deer facilities where controlled, artificial breeding technology is used primarily to produce whitetail bucks with enormous, often grotesque antlers – an industry that includes sales of semen, artificially impregnated does, and live bucks to other breeders or to captive deer shooting facilities. Current estimates suggest there are nearly 10,000 deer breeding operations in North America, and the number is growing as the industry pushes to expand into areas where it was historically not legal.
“Some argue this is an innocent endeavor with no negative impacts to wild deer or the everyday deer hunter. As CEO of North America’s leading whitetail conservation organization, I emphatically and unapologetically disagree,” said Brian Murphy, QDMA’s Chief Executive Officer. “Not only does this industry undermine the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation in which wildlife is a public resource, it also threatens the health of wild deer and the public’s perception of hunting.”
The distribution map of chronic wasting disease (CWD) – a fatal disease of deer and elk – suggests the disease likely arrived in several new states through transportation of live deer, either legally or illegally, and not through natural deer movements. Legalizing deer breeding in new areas increases the incentive for illegal transportation of untested animals at a time when these human-aided movements must be stopped. Transporting any captive whitetails is risky, as there is no acceptable and practical live-animal test for CWD. Once CWD appears in wild deer in a new area, slowing the spread of the disease requires costly investigation, testing and surveillance efforts for many years and often requires drastic reductions in deer populations. There is currently no known way to decontaminate an environment once CWD is present.
In more than 40 states, regulatory authority over captive deer facilities is held by state agriculture agencies, or shared between agriculture and wildlife agencies. QDMA recommends that wildlife agencies have sole responsibility because they have more experience with wildlife species and wildlife disease issues, and they fully understand what is at stake with regard to transmission of diseases like CWD to free-ranging deer.
“QDMA’s current effort is to halt expansion of the deer-breeding industry,” said Adams. “We also want sole jurisdiction for existing facilities to remain with or be reassigned to state wildlife agencies. Considering the implications for our hunting heritage, we can’t afford to allow this industry to expand. The ramifications of being wrong are simply too great.”