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Ever since Chronic Wasting Disease was found in a deer at a hunting preserve outside of Millersburg in the fall of 2014, any time a penned deer escapes in Holmes County, a red flag goes up.
The majority of the townships in the county are within a Division of Wildlife-mandated Deer Surveillance Area, so pen-raised deer mingling with wild whitetails is cause for concern.
The latest outbreak, though, is a bit different, as residents in and around Millersburg have been spotting odd-colored and ear-tagged deer in recent weeks.
The belief is that they're fallow deer that have gotten out from a penned pasture, not whitetails from a deer farm.
"(Holmes County wildlife officer) Jeremy Carter has told me there's a couple groups running around Holmes County," said Jarod Roof, law supervisor for the DOW's District Three office in Akron.
"Any cervid (hoofed mammal including deer, moose and elk) that gets out, we make an attempt to find the owners," Roof continued. "If we can't, we'll make an attempt to euthanize it."
The window for owners to capture and return deer to their pens is short, 24-72 hours, and after that, the Division of Wildlife takes action. However, it's not a simple job, as tracking the deer isn't an exact science. Trail cameras, landowner reports and baiting are helpful, but each case is different.
"It takes a lot of homework and prep work to deal with these situations," said Roof, who notes getting landowner permission is also a contributing factor in the process.
"Jeremy has authority to euthanize these deer, but we want him to have permission to get on people's property," said Roof. "... We want to get them out of the (native) population."
Scott Rhode, and his wife Melissa, watched three believed-to-be fallow deer graze near their home in Millersburg for parts of five days last week, noting once they were within 30 feet of the road and didn't seem concerned with traffic. Another report had someone nearly hit a "black" deer while driving on state Route 39.
While fallow deer, a medium-sized species native to western Eurasia, aren't thought to contract CWD, Roof notes that each animal the DOW euthanizes in Holmes County's Deer Surveillance Area will be tested for CWD.
"The way we look at it," Roof said, "captive whitetail deer and exotic cervids are a threat to the viability of our whitetail deer (population)."
The Division of Wildlife, though, has no authority over pen-raised cervids, and looks at them as livestock -- that is until they escape to the wild.
"They are a concern," Roof reiterated, "and we do attempt to remove them."
Outdoor Editor Art Holden can be reached mornings at 330-287-1650, or at email@example.com