Missouri’s Deer Remain Wildlife

White-tailed deer eating vegetation
White-tailed deer munching on vegetation. Photo by Robert Esbensen.
It seems like common sense: Missouri’s white-tailed deer are wildlife, not livestock. However, late on Wednesday night, the Missouri legislature fought until 3:00 am to decide the fate of Missouri’s captive white-tailed deer herd. Fortunately, the Missouri legislature upheld Governor Nixon’s recent veto of SB 506 and HB 1326.  These bills would have essentially reclassified captive deer as livestock, like cattle, by turning regulation of captive deer ranching over to the state’s Department of Agriculture, rather than the Department of Conservation’s expert wildlife scientists.

In vetoing SB 506 and HB 1326, Governor Nixon proclaimed that the reclassification of “wildlife” to “livestock” would violate the Missouri Constitution.  He is absolutely right. Missouri’s deer are not a cash crop to be exploited for the private gain of special interests.  It’s bad for the health of wild deer, bad for the economy, and undermines decades of wildlife policy.  And now the legislature has upheld his veto.

It has long been a doctrine in Missouri and across our nation that wildlife is a public resource, one which is held in trust by government. Generations of Missouri conservation leaders have upheld this sacred trust and in doing so preserved Missouri’s diverse and abundant wildlife. Rather than abandoning decades of precedent protecting public resources and fair chase polices, the legislature has upheld the public trust doctrine and this vote should send a clear signal to other states that our public wildlife is not for sale.

NWF’s affiliate, Conservation Federation of Missouri (CFM), led the tireless charge against the private interests and NWF thanks CFM for your courageous efforts to protect wildlife for our children’s future.

To learn more, visit www.confedmo.org.