NADeFA Questions Wisconsin-Kentucky Elk Agreement

The North American Deer Farmers Association (NADeFA) applauds the efforts of the Wisconsin DRN to reintroduce elk into their historic range in Wisconsin. NADeFA does question the agreement between Wisconsin and Kentucky that will allow Wisconsin DNR to trap 150 elk in Kentucky over five years and then release those elk into Wisconsin.

A recent article in the "Wisconsin Outdoor News" has a few facts wrong. First, it states Kentucky does not allow game farms and hunting preserves. This is not true. Kentucky has more than 60 deer farms and numerous hunting preserves.

The article also demonstrated a lack of knowledge on the epidemiology of animal diseases, when it inferred that TB, CWD and brucellosis originate solely from game farms and hunting preserves. This is untrue and misleading. It should be noted that Maryland, New Mexico, Virginia and Wyoming all have documented cases of CWD, for example, yet none of these states have a farmed elk or deer industry. Texas, North Dakota and West Virginia have found CWD in the wild, while their farmed industry has tested thousands of animals, and all have been negative.

Wisconsin allows importation of farm-raised deer and elk, but the state law mandates the animals must be from CWD ‘Certified’ herds which require 100 percent testing for five years. The wild elk being trapped in Kentucky are not from CWD Certified herds, nor have they routinely tested for TB or Brucellosis over any significant period of time.

Kentucky’s deer and elk producers, as well as those across the country, follow vigorous disease prevention programs with state and federal guidelines and oversight. In the case of CWD, for example, deer and elk farmers collect and test samples on EVERY animal — 100 PERCENT — that dies on the farm, regardless of how the animal died.

While the wild elk from Kentucky which will be transported and released into the wild of Wisconsin probably present a low-risk, it’s important to note that importing animals from facilities with proper certification and disease prevention programs is the best way to minimize any further introduction of diseases into Wisconsin.

In addition, why didn't the DNR source the elk from within the Wisconsin farmed elk population? They would have came with a known health history, been more genetically diverse, and with donations from the farmed elk industry, the project would have been less costly and sportsmen would not have had to wait for five years before hunting.

Shawn Schafer, Executive Director
North American Deer Farmers Association