HERMANN, Mo. – A judge made a ruling last week that will block the enforcement of new regulations set forth by the Missouri Conservation Commission (MCC) and the Missouri Department of Conservation that would have prevented the importation of privately owned deer and other cervids into the state.
Judge Robert D. Schollmeyer of the 20th Judicial Circuit Court of Missouri granted the plaintiffs in the case of Donald Hill v. Missouri Conservation Commission a motion for a preliminary injunction, holding that the plaintiffs will likely prevail in their case that imported deer are not “natural resources of the state” as claimed by the MCC.
Donald Hill is the owner of Oak Creek Whitetail Ranch in Bland, Missouri, a fair chase deer hunting business where privately owned deer can be hunted for sport. Fellow plaintiffs Travis Broadway and Kevin Grace own similar businesses. The Missouri Department of Agriculture oversees these types of operations as the deer are classified as livestock.
The parties argued that new regulations put in place by the MCC that would stop the importation of white-tailed deer into the state would cripple their businesses since they rely on fresh specimens in their breeding programs. The MCC originally put the regulations in place as a means of keeping wild Missouri deer safe from chronic wasting disease (CWD).
The ruling comes as just one battle in the long war between captive cervid operations and the Missouri Department of Conversation. For several years, some lawmakers have looked to reclassify captive deer as livestock, rather than as wildlife. The change would put the Department of Agriculture, not Conservation, in charge of captive cervid operations. The MDC has routinely fought this change, as their officials and captive cervid owners and operators continue to spar over whether or not the captive deer population is primarily responsible for spreading chronic wasting disease (CWD) among the state’s wild deer population.
That fight had bled over into other battles, as the MDC and captive deer owners continue to clash over their operations.
The judge stated that the MCC could not prove their harm superseded the direct harm the plaintiffs would face.
“Without question, Plaintiffs will suffer irreparable harm… including the loss of their businesses should the regulations remain in effect throughout the upcoming hunting season,” the Court’s order said. “By contrast, Defendants cannot show an imminent threat to Missouri’s cervid population or other public interests that would justify the regulations remaining in effect while their Constitutionality is finally resolved.”
The final hearing in the case will judge if the regulations are lawful or not, but a date has yet to be set.