State and federal authorities have destroyed approximately 30 wild white-tailed deer that have been trapped for more than a year inside a farmed elk facility in central North Dakota’s Sheridan County. The deer were originally enclosed when a fence was erected to contain farmed elk.

The action was carried out Tuesday by personnel from the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, and North Dakota Department of Agriculture.

The removal of wild cervids that make their way in to captive facilities is a necessary precaution to safe-guard from potential disease transmission both wild, free-roaming big game populations, and the farmed cervid industry. Cervids include animals such as deer and elk.

“The overall welfare of the public’s wildlife resource, as well as private industry, is at the heart of these removal operations” said Greg Link, assistant wildlife chief at game and fish. “Our primary concern has to be for the well-being of our state’s overall wild deer population. Once wild deer come in contact with captive deer or elk, we can’t let the entrapped deer return to the wild because the risk of disease transmission is too great.

“Dispatching a herd of wild animals because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time is not a pleasant task,” Link added. “However, reducing the likelihood of disease outbreaks such as chronic wasting disease, tuberculosis, and brucellosis is an essential part of our job and we take it very seriously.”

The Game and Fish Department has developed specific protocol for dealing with these situations as part of the state’s CWD prevention and contingency plan and after much collaboration with the ND Board of Animal Health, the ND Deer Ranchers, and the ND Elk Growers Association.

Link said the farmed cervid industry, the Board, and the Department all agree that keeping captive and wild cervids separate, with the wildlife on the outside and the farmed livestock inside is paramount.

Last year several farmed elk from this private facility escaped into the wild and were dispatched and tested for the same reason.

A general post mortem was conducted on the carcasses, which are being tested for chronic wasting disease, tuberculosis and brucellosis. In addition, the meat was also salvaged. After test results come back, the meat will be processed and made available to food pantries through an established delivery system, known as “Sportsmen Against Hunger.”

Leave Baby Wild Animals Alone 052604 School is out, summer’s almost here, and people are starting to spend countless hours outdoors enjoying the state’s wide open prairies. Likewise, baby animals tend to roam from the comforts of home, often with the appearance that they have been abandoned by their mother – but that is usually not the case.

State Game and Fish Department personnel remind outdoor enthusiasts to stay away from baby animals that appear to be abandoned, and most importantly, to not touch them.

“While we understand and are sympathetic to one’s feelings on this issue, the best advice we can offer is to let Mother Nature work,” said Jeb Williams, department outreach biologist.

Most of the time, young animals found by themselves are not abandoned. “Young wildlife are purposely placed into seclusion by their mothers to protect them from predators,” Williams said.

It is illegal to take wild animals home, and captive animals returned to the wild will struggle to survive because they do not possess learned survival skills.

Handling wildlife is also risky, Williams noted, as wild animals can transmit a variety of diseases to humans, and aggressive actions are typical of mothers protecting their offspring.

One of the only times a person should touch a young animal, according to Williams, is if a songbird is found on a doorstep. “In that case, you should relocate it to an area nearby with good habitat conditions,” he said.

Deer fawns generally look like they are abandoned, said big game biologist Bill Jensen, but chances are the mother is close by waiting for you to leave. A doe will visit and briefly nurse her fawn a couple times a day. These short visits reduce the chances of a predator finding the youngster. “The most important thing is for the fawn to remain undisturbed,” Jensen said.

If a fawn has been handled, Jensen said, have it put back into the wild. “A misconception is that once a fawn has been touched the doe will not take it back,” he added.

A fawn removed from the wild faces a bleak future. The only option is to take it to a zoo, where it is forever removed from the wild, Jensen said.