The original rules threw up a strong legal wall to hold out potentially-infected "cervids." They were needed to prevent the spread of a deadly disease, Chronic Wasting Disease, a sickness that has killed thousands of Midwestern elk, mule deer and whitetails. CWD is a bad bug, invading the brain and spinal tissue of cervids, destroying their desire to eat; hence it's a "wasting" disease. It's spread by deer-to-deer contact.
Efforts to control CWD must be drastic. When Michigan first discovered the disease, the state's wildlife agency set about trying to kill every deer in the county where the infected deer had been found. That isn't an easy thing to do anywhere, but in Michigan, with its massive deer herd , it was awful, bloody and wasteful - and astronomically expensive.
This past September, the Commission swooped down on an Asheboro man's deer pen. The owner, Wayne Kindley, and his wife, Linda, had seven fallow deer and two whitetails. The Commission staff members shot and killed all nine deer, loaded them up and trucked them off to be tested for CWD. Tests finished about a month later revealed no CWD, but that result only can be known through post-mortem studies.
The Kindleys say they are "wildlife rehabilitators" - people who try to heal injured wildlife - but Commission records don't support that claim. The Kindleys called a local TV station, said the agency had violated their rights and described how they'd been set upon without notice and their deer shot, which set off a firestorm of internet protests. They attended a Commission meeting with Jo Henderson, who delivered a petition with 2,000 names protesting the euthanization. Henderson, and Kindley broke up the meeting, shouting at commissioners.
Supports of the Kindleys say the Commission staffers should have darted the deer or loaded them into a transport. Their lawyer, who had the Kindley's court case continued from Oct. 25 to Nov. 17, has charged that the Commission went beyond a search warrant which, he said, didn't mention CWD or killing deer. Both claims appear to be incorrect. Kindley didn't have a permit to keep deer in pens and has never has been a certified wildlife rehabilitator, a Commission source told us. Second, the search warrant said the Commission staffers could "possess" the deer, which includes euthanizing them.
A former Commission staff member told us that the agency has done the same thing in the past to "possess" unregistered cervids because killing deer is a legal way to take such cervids, that the alternatives (darting or roundup up the deer) is extremely difficult, time-consuming and expensive, and the only way to test for CWD is to examine the brain tissue of deer, a post-mortem test.
Nonetheless, the episode has given the state's wildlife agency a black eye because of misunderstandings and statements by Mr. Kindley. The internet petition supporting him had grown to 18,000 signatures by late October, but it's basically worthless because there's no way to check the validity of those signees, plus, many are likely to be opposed to taking the life of any animal, many are anti-firearms and see state wildlife agencies as co-conspirators with hunters to violate imagined "rights" of wild animals.
The Wildlife Commission got it right this time, but few people understand why killing the deer was necessary. And that's too bad.