Captive Deer and Elk Classifications by State

By author of Brow Tines and Backstrap

Captive Cervids Aren’t Treated Equally Nationwide

Are there captive cervids near you? What's your opinion on them? (Russell Graves photo)

The captive cervid industry is a hot-button topic. Some people support it. Many others oppose it. That said, it’s currently up to the states whether or not it’s a legal practice. Furthermore, it’s up to them as to how captive deer and elk are classified. Here we’ll go through each classification, explain what they mean, and which states fall into each category.

Thanks to the 2018 QDMA Whitetail Report, we know how captive cervids are classified in each state and have access to that data. Those that did not provide any data included Connecticut, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon and Washington. Also, if needing information for a specific state, it’s important to check with each one individually. Regulations are changed constantly and if you have a need for information regarding any of these states, it’s best to go directly to state authorities for any needed information.

States That Classify Them as Wildlife

Some states classify captive cervids as wildlife. While every state has slight variations, for the most part, this means they are still viewed as wild animals. This also means that for most states, the state wildlife agencies are still over the industry. Wildlife officials from these DNRs and state agencies regulate the industry. Typically, those who oppose high-fenced operations want it to be illegal, but prefer this classification over the livestock option (for several reasons) .

States: Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, Texas, Arizona and Idaho

States That Classify Them as Livestock

Most states classify captive cervids as livestock. This means they’re viewed similarly to and categorized with other animals such as cattle, horses and hogs. Ultimately, this classification is a domesticated class. With this classification, in most states, the department of agriculture is responsible for the regulation of the captive cervid industry. Generally, most captive cervid owners prefer this classification.

States: Delaware, Maine, Vermont, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, North Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Colorado

States with Alternative Classifications

This list is difficult to pick apart because it’s slightly different for every state. It’s almost a hybrid system for most of them. The level and number of regulations and the responsibility of who manages those regulations is somewhat different depending on the state. Check with each state to get specific information.

States: Rhode Island, Illinois, Arkansas and South Dakota

States with No Captive Deer In-State

A few states do not permit (or least highly discourage) the captive cervid industry to operate within their borders. For these states, the captive cervid industry is either absent, illegal, or both.

States: New Hampshire, South Carolina, Tennessee, Nebraska and Wyoming

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