Fallow Deer, Elk On Loose In Georgia
Exotics roaming Georgia woodlands concern wildlife biologists over fears of the spread of disease to the deer herd.
Rambling exotic animals have been on the loose in two Georgia counties recently.
In early July in Cherokee County, a pair of fallow deer were seen going yard-to-yard in a neighborhood. The two were part of a small herd of fallow deer that were being confiscated by WRD because of a permit violation.
Because the herd of fallow deer were kept in the facility for about 10 years without any outside animals being added, officials said there was a low risk of disease such as chronic wasting disease (CWD), a potential concern with exotics.
Although colorations can vary, typically the summer coat of fallow deer is a deep chestnut with white spots that in winter turns to dark brown and the spots fade. The tail has a black stripe running along its length and is surrounded by a light-colored area bordered by a black fringe.
At presstime, the pair of fallow deer were still on the loose.
We reported in the July issue of GON that an escaped cow elk was killed June 12 along the Broad River in Madison County.
The elk was shot by a WRD Conservation ranger, and it fell into the river. WRD personnel recovered the animal, and it was tested for CWD. Those tests performed by the Southeast Cooperative Wildlife Study at the University of Georgia came back negative.
The owner of the elk was identified as Arnold Stanley “Beau” Kaye, of Danielsville.
According to WRD Biologist Scott Frazier, Kaye has a wild animal permit for a 110-acre facility in Danielsville. He is licensed to hold four camels, one zebra and two nilgai — an elk-sized antelope that is native to the India/Pakistan area.
No one knows exactly how the elk escaped the facility, but according to Scott, it likely just jumped the fence.
The 600-lb. cow elk was found by hunters on a hunt club only about a quarter mile from Kayeʼs property.
“Mr. Kaye bought the elk in November 2003 at an animal auction at Mount Hope, Ohio,” said Scott.
The animal was transported into the state after a ban on the import of animals went into effect in Georgia.
The paper trail on the illegal elk led back to an elk breeder in Indiana.
The CWD potential from that breeder is low, said Scott.
“The breeder has been participating in the national CWD plan,” he said. “He has been enrolled since September of 2001.”
Under the CWD plan, participating animal facilities monitor animals as they enter and leave so there arenʼt exposures to unknown animals.
Second, the plan tests any animal that dies at the facility for the presence of CWD.
That facility has been entirely clean for three years, said Scott.
“If it had to come from anywhere, thatʼs what we were hoping to find,” he said.
Given the circumstances, WRD is cautiously optimistic that the potential CWD bullet has been dodged.
“One of the questions is that the animal was sold through an animal auction,” said Scott. “There were a lot of other animals there, and their origins and the level of contact they had with the elk is not known. But the tests did come back as not showing any CWD in this animal.”
Kaye faces misdemeanor charges for holding the animal without a license and could be fined up to $1,000.
Kaye will pay restitution to the state for all costs associated with the recovery of the animal, said Scott.
“The figure we worked up to cover personnel costs came to $3,379.61,” said Scott.
The Madison County elk demonstrated how easily disease from an infected animal could have been transmitted to Georgia deer.
“The elk was found at a deer feeder in the company of whitetails,” said Scott. “That is part of the reason that we caution people about putting out feeders because it put a lot of whitetails in direct contact with an exotic. If it had been a positive animal that would have been a very good route for exposure.”
If an animal infected with CWD is brought into the state, it has the potential to devastate Georgiaʼs deer herd. If you know of animals that are being transported into the state illegally, contact your local WRD Law Enforcement office. The phone numbers are listed in the front of the hunting-regulations booklet.
“On the positive side, we did recover the (elk),” said Scott. “We did test the animal, and we were able to track the source of the animal which was participating in the monitoring program. But who knows? This is the one that we know about. It is the ones that we donʼt know about that concern us.”
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