The controversial deer-pen hunting bill--House Bill 1977--died in a
meeting of legislators and other interested parties on March 12. The Department
of Natural Resources (DNR) has issued a "white paper" report on the demise
of the bill in the "horse trading" meeting. The DNR report follows, in
and Oversight of Captive White-tailed Deer --
March 14, 2003
Deer farms and hunting
white-tailed deer in private enclosures is the most divisive wildlife issue
of this legislative session.
State legislators and
representatives of the Department of Natural Resources and the Board of
Animal Health met at the Statehouse Wednesday to discuss the issue. They
agreed on a course of action to resolve two very controversial actions
- one taken by the House of Representatives and another taken by the DNR.
HB 1977, which passed
57 to 41 in the House, will not receive a hearing in the Senate. That bill
would have taken away the DNR's authority to regulate deer farms. In exchange,
the DNR has rescinded the emergency rule stating that the agency would
not issue any new permits to breed white-tailed deer.
The meeting was attended
by Sen. Bob Jackman, Rep. Bill Friend, Rep. Bob Hoffman, Rep. Donald Lehe,
Rep. Ron Herrell, Sen. Murray Clark, Sen. Richard Young, Sen. Tom Weatherwax,
DNR director John Goss, BOAH attorney Gary Haynes and DNR legislative director
Where do we go from
1. The DNR and BOAH will
work with all the parties to develop an overall blue print for regulation
of captive white-tailed deer in the state, including suggestions for statutory
changes, if any, and reasonable rules. Also, the meetings would attempt
to reduce conflicts and growing bitterness between the parties in the dispute.
The DNR suggests further that impartial wildlife scientists, possibly from
Purdue, be invited to the meetings to lend their expertise. The goal will
be to have a report at the end of the summer that could be presented to
the Natural Resources Summer Study Committee upon request
2. The DNR will continue
to formulate rules that clarify the game breeder license program, which
regulates game mammals, furbearing animals and nonmigratory birds. The
agency will continue to seek the advice of the game breeders advisory group,
which the DNR established to include representatives of groups interested
in the issues common to all game breeder license holders.
3. BOAH will continue
to implement its current rules governing captive cervids.
4. BOAH will continue
working with captive cervid interests and wildlife and hunting organizations
on rules to protect animal health. BOAH staff will meet with captive cervid
interests on March 14 and wildlife and hunting groups on March 21 to present
the latest information on CWD in North America and listen to comments.
The BOAH will consider at its April 17 meeting revised rules to address
health issues associated with CWD.
and DNR will continue to plan, execute, and evaluate CWD surveillance strategies
for the free-ranging white-tailed deer herd in Indiana as needed to detect
and control CWD.
deer game breeders
The Department of Natural
Resources has issued 182 licenses for 2003 to breed white-tailed deer.
By comparison, there were 148 licenses issued in 1997, 242 in 2001 and
263 licenses issued in 2002.
The 182 game breeders
reported possession of 4,057 deer in 2002. The vast majority of the breeders
own fewer than 20 deer. One breeder owns nearly one-third of the 4,057
deer reported by licensed breeders. The second highest number owned by
a breeder is 100 deer.
Deer breeders reported
in 2002 that they purchased 91 deer and that 593 deer were born in captivity.
The breeders reported that 18 deer escaped and 436 were sold. Also, the
breeders reported that 454 deer died in captivity or 18 deer more than
Prior to the detection
of chronic wasting disease outside of the Western Plains, Hoosier deer
breeders reported that they sold deer to people in a variety of states
including Pennsylvania, Ohio, Minnesota, Texas, Michigan and Missouri.
One Indiana breeder reported in 2001 that he received $18,000 for one deer.
Another breeder reported that he had received $14,000 for a single deer.
Prices vary based on the size of a deer's antlers, which are desirable
as a trophy.
Today, most states have
taken steps to control the movement of cervids. Most states have
stopped the importation of white-tailed deer and other cervids from any
area where CWD has been diagnosed and some states have prohibited cervid
imports from any state.
of the DNR
The DNR is responsible
for protecting and properly managing all fish and wildlife resources of
Indiana. White-tailed deer are a wild animal according to Indiana law.
Indiana law allows game mammals to be possessed, bought or sold for propagation
A game-breeders license
does not authorize the license holder to hunt a game animal. Hunting, according
to Indiana law, may occur only within designated seasons and in accordance
with rules established by the DNR. Early archery deer season begins in
mid-October with firearms season running from mid November to December
1. Archery season concludes the first Sunday of January.
A deer-hunting license
is not required for an individual, a spouse or child who hunts on his or
her own property. A deer-hunting license is required for people hunting
on another person's property. The firearms license allows the hunter to
take one antlered deer and the archery license allows one antlered and
one antlerless, or two antlerless deer. Bonus antlerless permits may be
The Board of Animal Health
supervises the prevention, suppression, control, and eradication of diseases
affecting the health of animals and the safety of products derived from
animals. Under BOAH statutes cervidae are animals and cervidae that are
not wild are defined as livestock. BOAH responsibilities include the state
meat inspection program that includes "farm raised cervidae" under its
jurisdiction. BOAH duties extend to all cervidae species, not just white-tailed
In 2000 BOAH began to
register captive elk premises and test cervid mortality from those locations
for chronic wasting disease (CWD). In 2002 the BOAH began registering all
premises with captive cervids and testing cervid mortality from those locations
for CWD. BOAH anticipates registering a total of approximately 350 premises.
BOAH has found at least five different types of cervid operations:
A person that keeps deer
as a hobby. Many of these people describe the deer as "my pets".
Any one operation/premises
may include one or more of the above activities. The registrants are reporting
to BOAH that their animals are from the Indiana wild herd, from other Indiana
cervid premises, natural additions born in Indiana, and from other states
An exhibitor (zoo, petting
A commercial breeding operation.
A person that offers the
opportunity to hunt deer in fenced acreage.
In April 2002 the BOAH
imposed a moratorium on the movement of live cervids, cervid embryos, and
cervid semen into the state. This moratorium expires May 1, 2003. The BOAH
will make a decision on extending the moratorium at its April 17, 2003
In addition to the captive
cervid surveillance program, BOAH has worked with the IDNR on surveillance
in the free-ranging white-tailed deer population. The free ranging surveillance
program includes targeted testing of deer that appear abnormal and testing
of a statistically sound sample of hunter harvested deer from the Fall
2002 hunting season. No CWD has been detected in samples from Indiana so
How to regulate the deer
farming industry and shooting deer on these farms has been the subject
of two natural resources summer study committees and several bills that
would either expand or restrict the state's regulatory responsibilities.
Opposing forces went
to the Indiana General Assembly again this year hoping that their sides
would prevail in a legislative showdown.
The House Agriculture
and Natural Resources Committee considered opposing points of view and
possible compromise. The committee referred the matter to the 2003 summer
study committee. The DNR understood the message to be that the status quo
should be maintained on the issue.
To that end, DNR director
John Goss issued an emergency rule stating that the DNR would continue
to renew permits to breed white-tailed deer, but the agency would not issue
any new permits for that purpose. Goss reasoned that this move would maintain
the status quo by preventing further proliferation of deer farms when other
states have closed their borders to
the importation of white-tailed
Opponents to hunting
on deer farms applauded the action. Deer farmers booed.
Legislators told the
DNR that the agency got their message wrong. In a vote of 57 to 41, the
Indiana House or Representatives passed a bill that would take away DNR
authority to regulate deer farms, which would make the state Board of Animal
Health solely responsible for regulating the industry--including harvesting
Legislators told the
DNR that they considered the agency's ban on new permits as a violation
of the truce they declared by referring the matter to summer study committee.
It was understood by
all who attended the March 12 meeting that the philosophical issues related
to hunting and the health issues related to CWD must be separated and discussed
using factual information, while holding emotional input to a minimum.
It also was agreed that
DNR and BOAH would continue to work together and with the various groups
to develop and maintain policies that value free enterprise, the health
of all deer in Indiana and principles of fair chase.
DNR director Goss' apology
about the implementation of the emergency rule was heard and accepted by
the legislators who attended the March 12 meeting. Legislators said that
they very much appreciated his sincerity.
For more information:
Stephen Sellers, DNR communications director, 317-232-4003.