Stray elk renews concerns about deer farm security Minnesota
Posted Sep 28 2012 5:04pm
Stray elk renews concerns about farm security
Posted: Sep 28, 2012, 6:26 am By John Weiss The Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN
The Department of Natural Resources is investigating how a mature bull elk ended up on U.S. 52 near Zumbrota, where it was struck and killed by a truck on Sept. 20.
DNR officials are also investigating whether a mature whitetail deer shot by a bow hunter on Sunday near Marion, escaped from a game farm.
A truck driver hit the elk about 9 p.m., destroying the truck but not injuring the driver, said Don Nelson, area DNR wildlife supervisor.
Where the elk came from is puzzling, Nelson said. It had a slit on its ear that might have been from a game farm ear tag, but the slit had healed over, he said. The Minnesota Board of Animal Health had no reports of bull elks missing from game farms, he said.
To complicate the investigation, a bull elk was recorded on a trail camera several days before in Waseca County about 45 miles away, and a Goodhue County deputy saw a bull elk that morning near Wanamingo, a few miles from where it was struck.
Those two clues hint that the elk was moving into the area from the west, but that would be very unusual, Nelson said. Wild elk are found a few hundred miles west of here, and there's a small herd in northwestern Minnesota, but mature bulls rarely roam far from home, he said.
The antlers were damaged in the collision, so it's hard to compare them with the photos from the trail camera, he said.
"I don't have a good sense of where this animal came from," he said.
The carcass was taken to be tested for chronic wasting disease and other things that might help identify where it came from, he said.
The DNR has a better handle on where the whitetail doe originated. A blue tag on the doe strongly indicates it came from a game farm, Nelson said.
The animal was shot outside the zone where all deer shot have to be tested for CWD, which was found nearly two years ago in a deer shot near Pine Island. The tagged doe is still being tested, he said.
Again, the DNR is working with the Board of Animal Health on that case.
Seeing a mature elk in southeastern Minnesota is extremely rare, Nelson said, but seeing a deer from a game farm "is more common than we would like to see," he said.
Last year, only one deer was removed from the airport. It was unclear how the deer got past the wildlife fence — there might have been a small opening in the fence, or the deer might have simply jumped the 10 feet. Scherschligt said wildlife studies indicate that deer can sometimes jump 12-foot-tall obstructions, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture rates some whitetail deer as capable of jumping 15 feet.
Jumping to a vertical height of at least eight feet, deer can scale over barriers you may think are impossible. Watching a deer confronted with a vertical, eight-foot tall, hight-tensile wire fence then
watching it leap over from a standing position makes a startling impression. A frightened deer mhurdle a fence as high as 12 feet if given a running start and enough adrenalin. Horizontally, a deer may leap 15 to 30 feet, the longer distance only when frightened. In general, a deer may jump high or long, but not both at the same time. Deer have also been known to crawl under fences and through openings as small as 7.5 inches. The will of a deer to penetrate a fence is dependent on the force of the motivation behind it.
Sauer (1984) reported white-tailed deer could jump a 2.1-m fence from a standing start and could jump a 2.4-m fence from a running start. In contradiction, Fitzwater (1972) indicates that a 2.4-m fence is sufficient to prevent deer from jumping. Ludwig and Bremicker (1981) concluded that 2.4-m fencing was effective at keeping deer out of roadways as long as the length of the fence is extended well beyond the high-risk area for deer-vehicle collisions.
MINNESOTA has had a problem with deer and elk escapees for some time, see ;
Deer, elk continue to escape from state farms
Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune Updated: March 14, 2011 - 12:08 PM
Curbing chronic wasting disease remains a concern; officials are increasing enforcement.
Almost 500 captive deer and elk have escaped from Minnesota farms over the past five years, and 134 were never recaptured or killed.
So far this year, 17 deer have escaped, and officials are still searching for many of those.
The escapes fuel concern that a captive animal infected with a disease such as chronic wasting disease (CWD) could spread it to the state's wild deer herd. There are 583 deer and elk farms in Minnesota, holding about 15,000 animals. Since 2002, CWD has been confirmed on four farms, and herds there were killed. This year, the first confirmed case of the fatal brain disease in a Minnesota wild deer was found near Pine Island – where a captive elk farm was found in 2009 to be infected with CWD.
State officials with the Board of Animal Health, which oversees the deer and elk farms, and the Department of Natural Resources say there is no firm evidence the elk herd, since destroyed, is responsible for infecting that deer.
But given the proximity of the cases, suspicion remains high. And others say the continued escape of captive animals is problematic.
"It's a loose cannon, and unfortunately it has the potential of threatening our entire wild deer herd," said Mark Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association. He only recently learned that 109 deer and elk escaped in 32 incidents in 2010, and 24 of those animals never were recovered.
"The escapes themselves are startling and worrisome, but the two dozen not accounted for are a real concern," he said.
Dr. Paul Anderson, an assistant director at the Board of Animal Health, said the escapes are unacceptable.
"We've talked to the industry people and we all agree those numbers are too high," Anderson said. "We and the producers need to do a better job. We're going to increase our enforcement in 2011."
But he said the risk to the wild deer herd is minimal. Deer and elk generally die within three years of exposure to CWD, and 551 of the 583 Minnesota farms have had CWD surveillance for three or more years.
"We're very confident those farms don't have CWD," he said. As for the other 32 farms, "we don't think they have CWD either, but our confidence levels are not as good. We're pushing them."
The law requires farmers to maintain 8-foot fences, but most of the escapes are caused by human error, Anderson said. "They didn't close a gate or didn't get it shut right," he said.
Captive deer and elk brought into the state must come from herds that have been CWD-monitored for at least three years. Anderson said 184 animals were shipped here in the past year, and farmers exported 1,200 outstate.
The DNR is hoping the lone wild deer that tested positive for CWD is an aberration. Officials have long said CWD is potentially devastating to the state's wild deer herd. The DNR is killing 900 deer near Pine Island to determine if other deer might have the disease. So far, all have tested negative. Since 2002, the agency has tested more than 32,000 hunter-harvested deer, elk and moose.
While the Board of Animal Health licenses and oversees the deer and elk farms, the DNR is responsible for animals that have escaped for more than 24 hours. Escaped deer and elk can keep both DNR conservation officers and wildlife managers busy.
Tim Marion, an assistant area wildlife manager in Cambridge, has 38 deer and elk farms in his four-county work area, which includes Isanti, Chisago, Mille Lacs and Kanabec counties. Since last August, he's had 21 animals escape from four farms. Dogs broke into two pens, a tree fell on a fence in a third and another owner said someone opened a gate while he was away.
Four of those deer were shot and seven recaptured. Ten remain unaccounted for. Finding them can be difficult. Of nine deer that escaped from a farm near Mora, officials shot one two miles away, another four miles away and a third 8.5 miles from the farm. All were reported by people who spotted the animals at recreational deer feeders because they had tags in one ear, as required by law.
"There's no way we would have gotten any of these deer without the landowners helping us," Marion said.
But he has another problem.
"Three of those deer out there have no tags in the ear," he said. Will he find them?
"All I can say is we're trying," he said.
DNR conservation officer Jim Guida of Nisswa knows firsthand about escaped deer. He was bow hunting last fall near home when he shot a 10-point buck. Later, he was stunned to find a tag in its left ear.
"I thought it might be a [wild] research deer tagged at Camp Ripley," Guida said.