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The Humane Society of the United States Issues Statement on Escaped Captive Deer in Indiana

The Humane Society of the United States issued a statement in response to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ report that 20 captive deer have escaped from a farm in Jackson County.

“The recent escape of these captive deer is a clear illustration of the dangers captive hunts pose to our native wildlife, and why they must be shut down immediately. Not only are captive hunts cruel and unsporting, but they are breeding grounds for diseases such as chronic wasting disease,” said Anne Sterling, Midwest regional director for The Humane Society of the United States. “Captive hunts and the farms that stock them are directly responsible for spreading CWD, an outbreak of which could cost taxpayers millions of dollars in response efforts. The DNR tried to shut down captive hunts in 2005, and it’s time for the legislature to get behind them and ban this dangerous and inhumane practice from Indiana once and for all.”

Seven of the escaped deer remain missing. Captive cervid farms raise animals with unnatural, genetically-enhanced antlers to sell to captive hunting ranches – pay-to-play shooting operations where animals are stocked within fenced enclosures and shot for guaranteed trophies. The escaped animals may have come from a Pennsylvania deer farm contaminated with chronic wasting disease – an incurable, always-fatal disease that infects deer, elk and other cervids.


  • A deer recently tested positive for chronic wasting disease on a farm in Pennsylvania, which has sold 10 animals to captive deer farms in Indiana over the past three years – including the Jackson County facility.

  • Animals in captive hunts are stocked inside fenced enclosures, allowing ranches to often offer guaranteed trophies, “100 percent success” rates, and advertise "no kill, no pay" policies.

  • In 2005, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ then-director Kyle Hupfer passed administrative rules outlawing captive hunts. Operators of the captive hunts later filed a lawsuit in response that is still pending. A handful of captive hunt facilities continue to operate in Indiana under an injunction.

  • House Bill 1265, introduced in January 2012 and sponsored by Representative Ubelhor, R-Bloomfield, sought to legalize captive hunting ranches and end the pending lawsuit.  H.B. 1265 passed out of the House, but failed to receive a hearing in the Senate Committee on Rules and Legislative Procedures.

  • A 2010 statewide survey conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, Inc. revealed that 80 percent of Indiana voters oppose captive hunts of large mammals such as deer and elk, and 81 percent support a complete prohibition on captive hunts in the state.

  • Chronic Wasting Disease has now been found in 22 states. In 13 of the states the disease has been found in captive populations.

  • Chronic Wasting Disease can cost taxpayers millions of dollars in response efforts – the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources alone has spent over $35 million since 2002 fighting the disease.

  • Captive hunts are generally reviled by the hunting community nationwide for violating the principle of fair chase. Hunting groups such as the Boone and Crockett Club and the Pope and Young Club, which maintain trophy records for big game hunting, will not consider animals shot at captive hunts for inclusion on their record lists.

  • At more than 1,000 commercial captive hunt operations in the United States, trophy hunters pay to shoot native and exotic mammals — from zebra to endangered scimitar-horned Oryx — confined in fenced enclosures.

  • Many of the animals on these ranches have become accustomed to humans, making them easy targets for shooters.

Media Contact: Kaitlin Sanderson: 240-672-8397; ksanderson@humanesociety.org

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