An Ohio deer farm owner who violated quarantine orders from the Ohio Division of Agriculture will have 300 of his deer euthanized by the state.
Daniel M. Yoder, the owner of World Class Whitetails of Ohio Ranch in Holmes County, has been informed that 300 of his deer will be euthanized and checked for signs of chronic wasting disease (CWD).
The quarantine on Yoder's deer was initially ordered by the state in April 2014, when the deer were suspected of being exposed to CWD from an animal shipped to the farm from Pennsylvania.
On Oct. 22, 2014, a deer on Yoder's farm tested positive for CWD, which causes problems with the brain and nervous system of deer, moose and elk, and eventually is fatal. Hunting on the ranch was still allowed during this time, but all dead deer were ordered to be tested, and no new deer were allowed to enter the property's herd.
Yoder allegedly repeatedly violated the state-mandated quarantine and failed to keep accurate records that are required by the state. In fact, the state has dealt with record-keeping issues from Yoder for some time before the current CWD event.
"Transferring deer to Honey Run Farm was a clear violation of the quarantine," said Erica Hawkins, Ohio Department of Agriculture director of communications. "Yoder willfully violated the terms of the quarantine, and we've also had chronic record-keeping issues with him."
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The worst problem occurred when several deer escaped from the farm, putting the entire wild deer herd at risk of exposure to CWD. Ohio Division of Wildlife officers have killed five deer with ear tags in recent months. The tags indicate the deer were escapees from farms or preserves, and two of them proved to be from World Class Whitetails. Luckily, none of the five deer tested positive for CWD.
"The last straw was deer escaping from his property. That could allow the disease to potentially spread to hundreds of thousands of wild animals in the state," Hawkins said.
Due to the issues with CWD at Yoder's farm, Holmes County hunters were asked to bring any harvested deer to physical check stations so they could be tested for CWD. Scientists need the lymph nodes and brain stems of deer in order to test them for the disease. Officials were hoping to test as many deer as possible, but not many hunters brought their deer to the stations.
Ohio allows hunters to check harvested animals via an online system, which may have contributed to the low turnout. The total amount of harvested deer was also about 6.7 percent lower than previous seasons. ODOW officials also collected the necessary organs from deer-processing facilities and taxidermists.
Of the more than 500 deer farms and high-fence hunting preserves in the state, World Class Whitetails is one of the largest. Its website includes many pictures of the massive-sized bucks that are raised for hunting on the ranch. The trophy bucks are sold for prices ranging between $7,000 and $20,000.
Due to fair chase laws, none of the bucks harvested at the ranch are eligible for inclusion in either the Pope & Young or Boone and Crockett record books.
High-fence hunting preserves get a lot of negative media attention for their unfair hunting practices. This recent incident with CWD is just another reason why many hunters dislike the practice.
It is a shame that 300 deer must now be euthanized because of unsafe practices by a farm owner, but the safety of the state's wild deer herd cannot be risked.
A human has never contracted CWD, but hunters are encouraged to report any deer with ear tags or those that appear to be sickly. The Ohio deer-hunting season runs through Feb. 1, 2015. Archery and the muzzleloader season runs from Jan. 2 to 5, 2015.