Missouri Supreme Court rejects captive deer hunts
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s highest court has ruled the state has a right to regulate deer hunting companies to control a deadly brain disease affecting the animals.
The Columbia Missourian reports that the ruling involved owners of hunting preserves who challenged regulations imposed by the Missouri Department of Conservation in 2014. The regulations attempt to help stop the spread of chronic wasting disease by limiting the importation of deer and elk into Missouri.
Chronic wasting disease was first detected in Missouri eight years ago and affects deer, elk and moose. The conservation agency has since imposed testing for the disease as part of the check-in process for deer hunters in selected Missouri counties.
The department confirmed more than 30 new cases of the disease after testing nearly 24,500 free-ranging Missouri deer last year, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 75 since 2010.
The Supreme Court’s ruling reversed a lower court ruling that favored the hunting preserves, saying there’s no question that deer are wildlife.
“The (Missouri Conservation) commission will be working closely and in collaboration with hunting preserves and wildlife-breeding facilities to ensure regulation compliance and to minimize the risk associated with the movement and holding of captive deer,” the commission said. “The goal is to help protect Missouri deer’s herd, now and into the future, from the 100 percent fatal chronic wasting disease.”
Donald Hill is the owner of a 1,300-acre hunting preserve that has an estimated 800 deer in hunting and breeding facilities. Hill said he believes the commission is trying to shut down his operation and other similar operations.
“I’m numb,” said Hill, one of the plaintiffs in the case. “It’s going to put a lot of farmers out of business.”
The court’s ruling will likely mean the regulations that had been set to go in effect January 2015 will begin being enforced.
Lawmakers have previously tried to take the oversight of captive deer from the Conservation Department and allow the animals to be overseen by the Agriculture Department. Former Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed an attempt to transfer oversight in 2016.