The second of two public hearings will be held on Tuesday night at the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s headquarters on N.C. State’s Centennial Campus in Raleigh as the Commission decides whether to allow for an increase in the number of deer farms in North Carolina.
The meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. on Oct. 14, is designed to obtain comments on whether or not to implement a section of the 2014 state-budget act that has been interpreted to allow for more deer farms, despite the Commission’s concerns about Chronic Wasting Disease.
Gordon Myers, the executive director of the Commission, said his agency is acting because of “legal guidance” he said he received concerning the budget.
“Legal guidance I received is we now must allow new captivity licenses to establish deer farms,” he said. “The compromise language also requires that we align our deer captivity rules with (U.S. Department of Agriculture) standards for CWD.”
Two sportsman’s organizations believe an attempt by the N.C. Deer Farmers Association – backed by some $22,500 in campaign contributions to a handful of politicians – is behind the possibility that the Commission will turn over management of captive “cervids” – elk, whitetail deer, fallow deer, red deer – to the N.C. Department of Agriculture. Currently, 37 deer farms have permits to operate in North Carolina.
CWD is a fatal disease that has affected captive and wild populations of whitetail deer and elk in a number of states, some as close to North Carolina as Virginia and West Virginia. The Commission has maintained strict control of captive deer herds and prohibited all importation of captive deer from states with CWD into North Carolina until July 1, 2017.
“The N.C. General Assembly had relented on the very bad idea to transfer oversight of captive deer farms to the N.C. Department of Agriculture,” said Dick Hamilton, executive director of the N.C. Camouflage Coalition. “The wording in the budget act clearly indicated that the transfer would not take place. The act did subject (Commission) rules on captive deer to be no more strict than federal USDA Standards for Certified Captive Deer Herds designed to prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease.
“The (Commission) has interpreted the budget act special provisions to mean they must proceed immediately (to change previously-established law). The Commission is moving ahead with a proposed rule amendment to allow new licenses. The proposal is on a fast track for adoption at (its) Oct. 30 meeting. If it passes this amendment to allow issuance of new deer-farming licenses, it would become effective on Dec. 1, 2014.”
Judy Gardner, a past president of the North Carolina chapter of the Quality Deer Management Association, said it’s obvious why there’s a push to allow more deer farms in North Carolina
“Why does this industry want to move into North Carolina? Because their trade is restricted in deer-farming states that now have CWD. North Carolina’s soils and its wildlife are at this time judged to be CWD-free,” Gardner said. “That our Legislature has been sold a bill of goods is their legacy. It does not have to be ours.”
Hamilton, a former executive director of the Commission, said the threat of CWD entering North Carolina through infected captive deer, far outweighs any benefits to a small number of deer farmers within the state’s borders.
“If CWD invades North Carolina, the landscape of deer management and deer hunting will be changed forever,” he said. “Our wild deer population supports a huge economy important to small local businesses and provides outdoor recreational opportunities to 260,000 deer hunters and many more outdoor enthusiasts who admire the whitetail deer in its natural habitats. No small risk to introduce CWD into North Carolina for the meager benefit of a few commercial deer farmers is worth this gamble.”
To email a comment about captive-deer management to the Commission, visit http://tinyurl.com/od3ye6t.