N.B. orders alleged deer farms shut down

New Brunswick is ordering people at over a dozen locations in the province to either slaughter or ship out captive white-tailed deer they’re alleged to be keeping on their premises.

Staff with the province’s natural resources department "have recently hand-delivered letters to each location, advising that all captive white-tailed deer must be disposed of in an acceptable manner," provincial Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup said in a release last week.

Those keeping any such deer in captivity have until Feb. 1 to provide the department with a plan by which they will either transfer the deer elsewhere or dispose of the animals by no later than June 15, the province said.

The province’s Fish and Wildlife Act forbids anyone from keeping white-tailed deer in captivity, regardless whether they were bred or raised that way. Biologists warn that captive white-tailed deer pose a risk to native wildlife populations, human health and public safety, the province said.

The only disposal option available for individuals keeping such deer is to harvest the animals for personal use, the province said. Meat or other products from the animals cannot be sold, traded, exported or otherwise transferred to anyone else.

The only option to transfer the live animals, meanwhile, is to ship them to some other jurisdiction where white-tailed deer can be kept in captivity — and to do so will require prior approval from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the province said.

The operators receiving these letters have been told not to release captive white-tailed deer into the wild, due to the risk of spreading disease to wildlife, the province said.

Conservation officers will monitor the locations where animals are being kept captive, to ensure white-tailed deer are not released, the province added.

The province’s order follows the death last Oct. 9 of a man at St-Leonard, about 40 km southeast of Edmundston, Northrup said.

According to District 10 RCMP, the 55-year-old man had gone into a fenced field near his home to tend to a herd of deer. When the man did not return home or answer his phone, his wife phoned police, who found him in the field that evening with "severe injuries and no signs of life."

It’s believed the man had been attacked by a dominant male deer in the herd, RCMP said at the time.

"I asked department staff to look into this practice, and they have identified 15 locations with a total of more than 140 captive white-tailed deer," Northrup said last week.

Producers in New Brunswick can get permits to keep some non-native deer species, such as elk, fallow deer and red deer, as livestock.

Provincial natural resources staff will work with people keeping other such non-native species, Northrup said, to make sure they have permits and are sticking to the terms and conditions set out in those permits to cut the risk of spreading disease.

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