Some farmers in rural America have taken to flipping their land from growing crops to breeding whitetail deer for a lucrative hunting business that some wildlife officials are cracking down on. Authorities say the practice is aiding the spread of a disease fatal to deer throughout the U.S.
Breeders sell the deer they raise to owners of private hunting preserves, where bucks and does are kept confined to fenced-in areas for high-paying customers to hunt. A prize buck can fetch $100,000 for breeders.
“It was a small cottage industry to begin with, but in the past 10 to 20 years, more and more folks have gotten into it,” Mark Smith, a wildlife biologist at Auburn University, said.
Landowners across the country have long allowed hunters to shoot deer on their property, but recently breeders and farmers have built high fences to trap deer in smaller areas for hunters who are willing to pay a high price to get access to those smaller areas. While some animal rights activitsts oppose this practice on ethical grounds, wildlife managers criticize the role these preserves play in spreading chronic wasting disease among the nation’s wild deer population, and they would like to see tighter regulations.