Recovery Protocol for Escaped or Released Farmed Deer and Elk
The original protocol was developed in 1999 by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and the Ontario Deer and Elk Farmers Association (ODEFA), in consultation with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH), the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). The cervid farming sector has changed significantly since 2003 and ODEFA is no longer an active association. The current protocol was updated by OMAFRA and MNR staff to ensure administrative accuracy; no policy changes were made.
Statistics Canada's 2006 Census of Agriculture ("Alternative Livestock on Canadian Farms") reported there were 158 and 80 farmed deer and elk operations respectively in Ontario, which kept 8,031 deer and 3,550 elk. It should be stressed that not all of these operations are farms. A substantial number of non-farm operations such as zoos, animal exhibits, parks, petting zoos and private animal collectors, also keep deer and elk. This protocol is intended to apply only to farmed deer and elk. Farmed deer and elk are defined as animals which are being kept in captivity in Ontario for the purpose of commercial propagation or the commercial production of meat, hides, pelts, antler products or other products.
Cervids currently farmed in Ontario include elk, red deer, elk-red deer hybrids, white-tailed deer, fallow deer, sika deer, reindeer and mule deer. It is in the farmer's best interest to ensure the deer and elk, representing his/her investment, remain on the farm premises. In addition, the escaped or released animals may pose risks to public safety, private or public property, other livestock, the animal's well-being and native wildlife. The focus of this protocol is to protect native wildlife. It is recognized that even with the best management, fencing and handling facilities, there is the risk of deer and elk escaping from the farm premises. There have been some incidents where farmed deer and elk have escaped or been released; some of these escaped or released animals have never been recovered.
For purposes of this document, the term "escape" refers to an accidental or unintentional escape (e.g. - a natural disaster, a gate accidentally not locked, ); while the term "release" implies an unauthorized release (e.g. an act of vandalism). Regardless of the nature of the escape or release, the farmer should have a pre-planned recovery strategy in place, including knowing his/her responsibilities. This protocol will provide deer and elk farmers, facing an unexpected escape or release incident, with a summary of actions and reporting responsibilities. Producers, farm employees, processing plant and livestock auction personnel should have the protocol readily accessible (i.e. - posted near phones, in the glove compartment of vehicles used for transporting deer and elk).
Deer and Elk Owner's Responsibilities and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act
The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act (FWCA) was proclaimed on January 1st, 1997 and replaced the Game and Fish Act. The Act is administered by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR). Farmed deer and elk are exempt from most of the provisions of the Act and regulations; however, the Act does contain provisions that necessitate the recovery of escaped or released deer and elk from farms, as well as non-farm operations.
The deer and elk owner's legal responsibilities and issues under the Act include:
If the owner is unable to capture or kill the escaped/released animals within a reasonable time frame, the Minister of Natural Resources has the authority to capture or kill the escaped/released animals without incurring any liability. The owner could be liable for all expenses incurred by the Minister, unless the escape or release was caused by a natural disaster or act of vandalism.
Recommended Actions and Reporting Responsibilities
The following actions should be implemented upon discovering an escape or release:
Deer and Elk Farmer Responsibilities
The farmer should develop a working relationship with their local MNR district or area office so they can jointly assess and review the preliminary recovery approach (included in Form A), progress made and potential actions to be implemented, based on risk to native wildlife, as outlined in Appendix 1. OMAFRA and CFIA may also be involved.
The farmer will provide additional information to the District MNR staff by means of Form B - "Recovery Plan Progress Report of Escaped or Released Deer or Elk (MNR Form FW4016) and Form C - "Inventory Report for Escaped or Released Deer or Elk" (MNR Form FW4017). The time frame for submitting Forms B and C will be based on risk analysis measures in Appendix 1.
All personal information contained in Form A, B and C is collected by MNR, under the authority of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, sections 46 and 54. The personal information will be used to assist in implementation of the recovery protocol, to monitor progress in the recovery of escaped animals and to compile an annual report on escaped or released farmed deer or elk. This information will be shared with OMAFRA and CFIA. A generic report summarizing escape/release incidents will be compiled and distributed to other interest groups, on an as requested basis. The generic report will contain summary information on the number of incidents, numbers of animals and species involved, general locations, and recovery results. It will not, however, disclose details of specific incidents nor personal information, thus maintaining confidentiality as required under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. The annual report will differentiate between incidents involving farmed and non-farmed deer/elk.
Depending on the circumstances, it may also be advisable for the owner of the escaped deer and elk to contact the following:
MNR and OMAFRA Responsibilities
MNR Wildlife in Captivity Specialist Responsibilities
Appendix 1 - Process for Determining Risk Posed By Escaped or Released Cervids and Appropriate Action
Wildlife conservation is the paramount concern of this paper. The paper focuses on the analysis of risk that escaped or released cervids pose for native wildlife. However, the following factors must also be given serious consideration in situations where an escape or release of farmed cervids has occurred:
Public safety is a serious concern. If escaped or released animals are posing or may pose an immediate issue related to public safety (e.g. - animals near or on a major highway), then priority should be given to immediately contacting the local police and working with them to resolve the issue. MNR and other agencies should also be contacted as soon as possible as per this protocol.
Another very important factor that needs immediate consideration is the possible impacts that escaped or released animals may have on nearby farming operations. There should be a high degree of concern if the escaped or released animals come from a restricted (untested) or suspect herd under the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's Cervid Movement Policy (which falls under the umbrella of both the National Bovine Tuberculosis (TB) Eradication Program and the National Brucellosis Eradication Program), especially if there is any risk that the animals will come in contact with livestock or other deer or elk farming operations. There may also be concerns relative to the impacts that escaped animals may have on specialty crops. It is highly recommended that where there are such agricultural concerns, the owner of the escaped or released animals should immediately contact the owners of nearby agricultural operations.
Process for Considering Risk Factors
MNR will have lead in evaluating/interfacing with the owner regarding wildlife concerns. Any sanction or action taken as a result of wildlife concerns may be taken under the FWCA or other mechanism.
All factors will be evaluated in determining risk category and appropriate action; the fact which ranks the highest will determine the overall risk category for the escape/ release event.
Regardless of the risk category, all escaped animals must be removed within a period of 9 months unless otherwise authorized by MNR.
Risk Categories and Appropriate Action
Appendix 2 - Canadian Food Inspection Agency Local Animal Health District Offices - Ontario Area
For a list of all CFIA Area and Regional Offices please go to http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/directory/offbure.shtml
CFIA National Headquarters1400 Merivale Road
Tel: 1-800-442-2342 / 613-225-2342
For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300