The red deer that escaped from a Jefferson game park last week is no longer a concern to native wildlife, according to the man who runs the hunting park.
“The deer was captured last Saturday and turned in to the state,” Forest Peaslee, who runs Peaslee Mountain Hunt Park, said on Wednesday. “It was disposed of. That’s the procedure of the state. Other than that, there’s not much taking place.”
Peaslee did say that despite published reports to the contrary, he has not run Peaslee Mountain Hunt Park as a hunting business for the past two years, though he has kept current on required state licenses that would allow him to do so. He said he was thinking of welcoming hunters back this fall, but the recent escape and other issues that he would not discuss had made that unlikely.
According to previous BDN reports, Peaslee said the deer escaped from a fenced area after someone cut the locks off park gates. Peaslee reported the escape to the Maine Department of Agriculture, which regulates domestic deer herds in the state, after spotting the animal on adjacent farmland.
Last week the BDN reported that according to state law, farmers must report escapes to the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry within 24 hours and must return the deer to the fenced-in area within 72 hours. After three days have passed, the department begins to work with the farmer to find ways to recover the animal.
The DACF governs the operations of game ranches in the state, which are considered agricultural facilities whether hunting takes place there or not.
The red deer that escaped was gone for eight days before a farm worker captured it, Peaslee said.
The state’s lead deer biologist, Kyle Ravana of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife said on Tuesday that separating non-native deer species from the state’s native white-tailed deer is something the DIF&W takes very seriously.
And though the DIF&W is not the agency of record when it comes to monitoring game farms, it does pay close attention to the potential impact of those farms on deer that live nearby.
“The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is responsible for the protection, the preservation, and enhancement of the state’s deer population,” Ravana said. “One very important aspect of that is working to maintain the health of the state’s deer population by monitoring and maintaining the introduction of diseases into Maine’s ecosystems.”
Ravana said some diseases that might be transmitted from captive deer to native deer could have serious impacts on the health of the state’s herd.
“Specifically, what we’re really worried about here in relation to these farmed deer and the movement of deer across our border is the introduction of chronic wasting disease, which is a highly virulent disease and an extremely persistent disease, a disease that can persist in the environment outside of a host for upwards of five years,” Ravana said. “For that reason, we really want to stay on top of keeping track of these animals moving around.”
The DIF&W has monitored the state’s wild deer herd for chronic wasting disease since 1999, and thus far the fatal disease, which resembles mad cow disease, has not been detected here.
Biologists have focused a significant portion of their chronic wasting disease testing efforts in past years on segments of the native deer herd that have been harvested by hunters in towns near game farms. The fear, which biologists have expressed many times over the years: If chronic wasting disease does show up, it may not be carried to Maine by migrating deer, but by farmed deer hauled to the state in cattle trucks.