Wednesday, May 03, 2006

NORTH DAKOTA NEWS: Captive Deer Escape, Wild Deer at Risk

Eleven captive white-tailed deer escaped from a landowner's enclosure south of Bismarck over the weekend, leading to concerns about the potential spread of disease among wild deer inhabiting MacLean Bottoms.

State veterinarian Susan Keller alerted North Dakota Game and Fish Department biologists about the escape by an e-mail sent on Monday.

"(One) of the deer has returned," Keller wrote in the e-mail. "The owner has ordered CWD sample cups by overnight air and hopes to be able to destroy the escaped deer and test them for CWD."

Keller and deputy state veterinarian Beth Carlson were attending meetings on Tuesday and were not available for comment.

Keller's e-mail identified the landowner as Gerald Landsberger.

"I'm trying to find the problem," he said Tuesday. "It was caused by a stray dog, and I'm trying to find the owner. If word gets out, nobody will 'fess up."

Asked how many whitetails still were missing, he said, "I have nothing else to say at this time."

The concern is having deer that have been confined get loose and mix with wild deer. "That's why the Board of Animal Health has regulations regarding that," said Bill Jensen, a NDGFD big-game biologist.

"Those deer are in a prime river bottom area. It's scary when penned deer mingle with wild deer, especially in an area where we have a pretty high deer density," said Jeb Williams, NDGFD outreach biologist.

Chronic wasting disease is just one concern.

"There are so many unknowns," Williams said.

Ten of the captive deer have small tags in their ears, and one doe has a large white dangle tag in the ear, Keller wrote in her e-mail.

Under current Board of Animal Health policies, the owner of the loose deer has 10 days to recover them, said Greg Link, NDGFD assistant wildlife division chief, who also sits on the nontraditional livestock advisory council.

After that, the Board of Animal Health notifies NDGFD or USDA Wildlife Services that the 10 days are up, and "if you see these deer with the ear tags, dispatch them," Link explained. Tissue samples for CWD testing are taken from any of the deer that are found and killed.

There is no fine unless the owner was not in compliance, Link added.

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