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Wildlife Commission holds hearings on deer farming rules

January 9, 2015

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will hold nine public hearings this month on proposed rule changes, the most controversial of which regards holding deer in captivity.

The hearings begin Tuesday in Bladen County and continue until Jan. 22, when a meeting is set for Smithfield.

The News & Observer of Raleigh had reported ( ) that farmers are pushing for rules that allow them to expand because they breed deer to sell as game and for their meat and antlers. Hunters and wildlife conservationists fear the growth of deer farms puts the state’s wildlife at risk for a deadly disease called chronic wasting disease.

Those concerns first increased nationally in 2002 as the disease spread from the West. In North Carolina at that time, 110 people had permits for captive cervids — moose, elk and deer — but the state had few if any provisions to keep chronic wasting disease out of the state.

The Wildlife Resources Commission, given the authority to regulate them, bought thousands of captive deer, killed them and gave the meat to charities. State records now show 36 permits for 786 deer and elk.

In 2012, wildlife officials proposed loosening the rules, but that effort lost steam when a deer was found to have contracted the disease at a Pennsylvania farm.

Last year, the N.C. Deer and Elk Farmers Association hired lobbyists. The final state budget allowed for importing deer beginning in 2017, and said new permits could be issued for captive deer farms in North Carolina.

Because of that law, the Wildlife Resources Commission last month approved temporary rules prohibiting new permits for importing white-tailed deer and elk, citing potential legal challenges.

The comment period for the temporary rules on deer ends Jan. 23. The commission will consider whether to adopt the temporary rules at its Jan. 29 meeting. The temporary rules will become effective after approval by the Rules Review Commission in late February.