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Commission, sportsmen pay for fences around deer farm

| Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, 8:54 p.m.

Sportsmen have paid to keep wild deer from accessing a farm connected to the discovery of chronic wasting disease this past fall.

The bill, to rebuild fences, was not theirs to pay. But pay it they did, through the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

The farm is located in York County. No wasting disease was found there. But it was one of the first four put under quarantine by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture because of its connection to an Adams County farm where the disease was discovered. The quarantine means, among other things, that fences are to be maintained so that wild deer cannot move onto the property and perhaps contract the disease.

The department of agriculture — in response to questions in a letter from the Pennsylvania federation of Sportsmen's Clubs — indicated re-fencing should occur. It said its quarantine order allows for criminal and civil penalties against deer farmers who don't live up to its mandates.

“This provides a very strong incentive to re-fence such areas,” its letter to the Federation reads.

But with no fences rebuilt months after the disease's discovery and no indication that they would be any time soon, the Game Commission decided it couldn't wait any longer. It paid to re-fence the farm in an attempt to protect wild deer.

“We would have waited a long, long time ... putting free-roaming deer at risk,” said Cal DuBrock, director of the commission's bureau of wildlife management. “It was an investment worth making.”

Commission executive director Carl Roe did not say how much money the agency spent, but said “it was an expense.”

In the meantime, the commission is taking a more aggressive approach to dealing with escaped deer.

Two such animals got loose from deer farms this fall. The department of agriculture — again, to the consternation of the Federation — did not notify the public of the escapes. It explained its silence by saying that once a deer is outside a fence, whether it got there intentionally or not, it's no longer its business.

“The department … defers to the Game Commission once a deer is considered wild or free ranging,” reads its letter to the Federation.

Because such escapes are “numerous” in any given year, DuBrock said, the commission has asked the agriculture department to immediately notify executive director Carl Roe, DuBrock and veterinarian Walt Cottrell of them. From there, wildlife conservation officers have the green light to shoot those deer as soon as safely possible “and figure out the ownership later,” DuBrock said.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bfrye@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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