Debate Over Deer Definition Heats Up

By Linda Ong |

Published 07/22 2014 06:44PM

Updated 07/22 2014 07:06PM

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- A debate over deer may become one of the biggest arguments in Missouri's upcoming veto session.

Earlier this month, Governor Jay Nixon vetoed two bills that would designate deer as livestock.

The state constitution has given the Missouri Department of Conservation authority over deer for more than 75 years-- but provisions in Senate Bill 506 and House Bill 13-26 would change this.

Deer farmer Gary Lucas said proposed regulations from the Missouri Department of Conservation put a huge strain on his business.

"The Conservation is making it so hard on us that you can't even stay in," said Lucas. "That's why everybody wants us to go to the Department of Agriculture."

Among the regulations are captive cervid testing and incorporating new fencing standards.

"I can't afford putting that extra fence up," said Lucas. "It's just more trouble than it's worth."

Lucas is one of many who are opposed to the veto of SB 506 and HB 1326, which would change the classification of deer to from wildlife to livestock.

Tim Ripperger, Deputy Director of the Missouri Department of Conservation, said this change in definition would go against longstanding conservation practices and the state constitution.

"Missouri has world-class natural resources," said Ripperger. "We have a healthy and abundant deer herd across the state and we want to keep it that way through that deliberate, thoughtful, scientific management."

Many wildlife agencies are concerned about the risk of spreading disease and how it may affect wild herds.

Ripperger said this spread of infection can have a significant financial impact the hunting industry.

Mike Deering from the Missouri Cattlemens Association said provisions in the bills would help farmers, ranchers, and all of agriculture in the state. He said the classification is necesssary.

"The Department of Agriculture already regulates every single captive cervid, but captive white-tailed deer. They regulate captive elk, all the reindeer, every species of deer you can think of already regulated by the Department of Agriculture," said Deering. "The only one hanging out there is captive white tail. So it's a logical move to put all captive cervids together under one roof."

But Ripperger said the re-classification will work against the conservation and protection of deer.

"Having deer classified as livestock does in my opinion increase the risk to our wild resources our free-ranging deer herd around the state," said Ripperger.

On Monday, more than 30 conservation groups announced their support of Nixon's vetoes.

The Missouri Legislature's veto session begins September 10th.

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