BISMARCK, N.D. – Eleven captive white-tailed deer that escaped from a landowner’s enclosure south of here pose little risk of chronic wasting disease, the state veterinarian says.

“The risk of CWD in these animals is minimal to none. This herd has been under surveillance since 1998,” Dr. Susan Keller said Wednesday.

Keller said she alerted state Game and Fish Department biologists in an e-mail sent Monday as a courtesy.

“(One) of the deer has returned,” Keller wrote in the e-mail. “The owner has ordered CWD (chronic wasting disease) sample cups by overnight air and hopes to be able to destroy the escaped deer and test them for CWD.”

Keller said the landowner will suffer a business loss. He has been in business since 1994, and the state has had no problems with him, she said.

“We have little reason to be concerned about CWD out of this group of animals,” Keller said.

North Dakota has been free of chronic wasting disease, which kills deer, elk and moose, for at least eight years, though the disease has been found in neighboring states.

Keller’s e-mail identified the owner of the land from which the deer escaped as Gerald Landsberger.

“I’m trying to find the problem,” he said Tuesday. “It was caused by a stray dog, and I’m trying to find the owner. If word gets out, nobody will ‘fess up.”

Biologists said the state has rules to restrict wild deer from mixing with captive deer.

“Those deer are in a prime river bottom area. It’s scary when penned deer mingle with wild deer, especially in an area where we have a pretty high deer density,” said Jeb Williams, a state Game and Fish Department biologist.

Under state Board of Animal Health policies, the owner of the loose deer has 10 days to recover them, said Greg Link, the state Game and Fish Department’s assistant wildlife division chief.

The Board of Animal Health will notify the Game and Fish Department and federal wildlife officials when the 10 days are up, and “if you see these deer with the ear tags, dispatch them,” Link said. Tissue samples for CWD testing are taken from any of the deer that are found and killed.

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