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DNR wanted to test deer for disease

February 20, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

A Maryland Department of Natural Resources representative said a Hagerstown-area man will not be charged for his role in harboring and then moving a deer from his Antietam Drive home.

Bob Beyer said DNR believed it was important to test the deer, named Bucky by the couple that was trying to find it a permanent home, for multiple diseases including one he called the "kissing cousin" of mad cow disease.

During a Thursday press conference in the parking lot of Godlove's Liquors, just outside Hagerstown, Beyer said Kevin Hall would not face criminal charges for temporarily housing the deer.

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"He does not have the animal, so he cannot be charged," said Beyer, associate director for the state's game management program.

The news came as a relief to Hall, who said a DNR official told him Thursday that charges and an arrest were still options.

Kevin Hall and his wife, Starla, found the deer in the street near the liquor store on Sunday and took it into their home. They said Bucky appeared dazed and injured and continued to return to their porch following several attempts to release it.

Told by state officials that the deer would have to be euthanized, Kevin Hall and two men drove Bucky to Potomac Fish & Game Club near Williamsport Thursday and released it.

Beyer said because of reports of the deer's atypical behavior, it was important for DNR representatives to examine the animal because it might be carrying dumb rabies or chronic wasting disease.

He said it was a mistake for the Halls to release the deer because, if it were diseased, the ramifications on the wild animal population around it would be severe.

"We wanted to err on the side of caution," Beyer said.

Beyer said chronic wasting disease, which eats away at the brain of the animal and is the deer equivalent of mad cow disease, is rampant among deer in the Midwest. He said symptoms include the shakes and disorientation.

He said an animal with dumb rabies can become lethargic or easy to approach by humans. Bucky showed some of those symptoms early this week.

Beyer said, however, it appeared the deer was improving during the week and that it probably had been domesticated.

Beyer said it is important that people call DNR in similar cases so representatives can evaluate the animal in question. He said such evaluations, which sometimes lead to euthanization, are key to protecting humans and animals from deadly diseases.

If it is showing symptoms of a serious disease, the animal does have to be killed, Beyer said late Thursday.

"You have to take samples from the brain," he said. "It's not something we want to do, but have to do."

Beyer apologized to the Halls for the miscommunications between them and DNR about Bucky this week.

"When you have a lot of players involved in the game, that's where signals get mixed," he said.

Starla Hall called the apology half-hearted.

"They're only here because of all this," she said, pointing to reporters and camera people.

What are your thoughts on the "Bucky story"? Discuss them in our Bucky forum!

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