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Rescue efforts put on hold in Oklahoma as state investigates "zombie deer disease"

Rescue efforts curbed by "zombie deer disease"
Posted at 5:58 PM, May 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-07 18:58:52-04

CLAREMORE, Okla. — Spring can be the busiest time of year at Wild Heart Ranch. This year the wildlife rescue was preparing to host up to 50 White-Tailed Deer.

"May is when the majority of the white tails that are abandoned or injured come in. It's only going to get heavier as the months go by and white tailed babies find themselves in trouble with ticks and injuries, attacks by dogs... sometimes even kidnapped by people," director Annette King said.

Right now Wild Heart Ranch only has two, after Oklahoma put a ban on moving these fawn as they investigate the impact of "chronic wasting disease" which is also known as "zombie deer disease."

This follows a case found on an elk farm near Lincoln County in late April. The fear is rescue efforts could spread the illness.

"You cannot pick up roadkill, you cannot hunt, you cannot rescue, if a deer is caught in a fence it has to be put down on the spot. You have to leave it there you cannot move it," King said.

Staff at Wild Heart spent more than $10,000 on fawn formula for the season. Now they wish that funding was available elsewhere.

"Way more than what we can feed to two fawns this year. It's just a waste of donation money that could have gone to something else that we're not going to be able to use now," head volunteer Daniel Hardt said.

With only two deer, volunteers worry about the animals re-acclimating to the wild.

"Animals in captivity... it's better if there's a herd or a group where they won't like humans or go to humans. So it might actually be difficult to get these girls wild enough to release without looking for the hunters that are looking to shoot them," Hardt said.

Right now the ban is in place until May 24th, but that could be extended.

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