Indiana CWD transported from Pennsylvania

Posted on 10/29/2012

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources has issued an unusual directive to bow hunters afield in four southeastern Hoosier State counties this week: If you see a whitetail with a bright yellow ear-tag, kill it, and kill it fast.

And when you've recovered the deer, the agency says, don't worry about taking it to a local check station. Just call DNR Law Enforcement immediately.

This highly uncommon order from the state agency entrusted with managing wildlife and enforcing game laws is the result of an equally unusual set of circumstances that have led to a situation unlike anything the DNR has ever faced. And it comes right in the middle of archery deer season, which began October 1 and gives bow hunters the run of the woods until regular firearms begins Nov. 17.

The DNR order comes after 20 captive-raised deer escaped earlier this year from a Jackson County farm where some genetically-enhanced bucks with huge antlers are bred and sold to high-fenced, private hunting preserves that charge thousands of dollars to deep-pocketed clients who want to shoot them.

Seven of the deer that escaped from the facility remain unaccounted for.

The agency's search for the missing farm-raised deer is focused on four counties-Jackson, Bartholomew, Jennings and Scott. The search took on an added significance this week after chronic wasting disease (CWD) was confirmed in a deer in the state of Pennsylvania for the first time-a captive-raised deer-that was located on a game farm.

The red flag was raised for Hoosier DNR officials when they discovered that the New Oxford, Pennsylvania game farm where CWD was detected sold 10 animals to farms in Indiana during the past three years-two does to farms in Noble and Whitley counties and the remaining eight to a Jackson County farm.

Meanwhile, Douglas Metcalf, chief of staff for the Indiana Board of Animal Health, said four farms are presently under quarantine, and the animals confined there are all being tested for CWD.

Phil Bloom, former Fort Wayne outdoors writer and current head of public information for the DNR, declined to release the name of the impacted farms. Of the 20 animals that escaped, 11 were immediately recaptured, a car hit one and a bow hunter shot another this fall, Bloom said.

"This case underscores the concern many have about how the commercialization of wildlife and interstate trafficking in wildlife presents a Pandora's box, with the potential spread of a deadly disease that does have some wide-ranging consequences," Bloom told the Indianapolis Star this past weekend.

In the meantime, bow hunters who shoot a deer bearing an ear tag with the prefix "IN 764" followed by another four numbers are asked to immediately call DNR Law Enforcement at (812) 837-9536. Any driver who strikes and kills an ear-tagged deer with a vehicle is asked to do the same.

If and when the remaining at-large deer are killed, DNR staff will assist in transporting the carcasses to Purdue University for testing at the Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory.

The current situation marks the latest chapter in a debate over captive deer breeding-and high-fenced hunting-that has raged in Indiana for more than a decade. In 2006, the DNR approved regulations that prohibited hunting on fenced preserves. A lawsuit filed by several owners of those facilities and a subsequent injunction left the farms free to continue breeding, selling and transporting animals.

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