NOBLEBORO, Maine — The owner of a small farm that raises fallow deer disputes the claims that as many as 10 of his animals have escaped and are running wild in the area.
George Smith, former executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, wrote on his blog Thursday, Sept. 13, that the deer that have been seen are likely those that escaped from the farm in town that raises them. He did not name the farm.
The town’s code enforcement officer, who has heard about the escaped deer though he has not seen them himself, identified the farmer as James Maxmin.
“I know there are some that are loose,” Stan Waltz said. “I don’t know how many.”
When deer escape, “Usually, they have someone come in and take care of it,” he said, meaning that hunters authorized by the state hunt for and shoot the animals.
State biologists and others are concerned about the potential consequences of different species of farm deer intermingling with wild, white-tailed deer. Fear of disease, particularly the deadly chronic wasting disease, is chief among their concerns.
Contacted Friday, Sept. 14, Maxmin said he is confident that none of the animals local folks have been seeing and identifying as his actually escaped from his pens.
“None of ours are loose,” he said. Maxmin’s operation now has 28 mature animals and 11 fawns.
“As far as I know, we’ve accounted for all of our deer,” he said. And given the number of does that have been in heat over the past year, he doesn’t believe his animals are capable of producing 10 offspring.
Maxmin keeps the deer in three penned areas on 9 acres, and works with state deer biologist Gerry LaVigne on licensing his operation and addressing any problems.
“We sell six a year and we eat three a year,” he said. The deer are sold as live animals to individuals, not dealers. Fallow deer are prized because their meat is low in fat and cholesterol and high in protein. “They’re much tastier than red deer,” another kind that is raised for food, he said.
When his deer have escaped, he said, they tend to stand by the fence, because as herd animals, they want to stay with their peers.
There was a breach in one of his fences, Maxmin said, which he believes was made by someone trying to get some of his deer’s shed antlers.
If there are fallow deer in the area, “We believe someone dropped them off,” he said, or an illegal deer farm was shut down by the state and the owner couldn’t bear to kill the fawns and instead turned them loose.
“That’s the conclusion that we’ve come to,” he said.
Maxmin said his farm carries liability insurance, disputing Smith’s claim that he was denying ownership out of fear of a lawsuit if one of the animals caused a car crash. If any deer had escaped, “I would’ve claimed it on my insurance,” he said.