LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas residents won't be able to capture and keep wild deer as pets as of July 1, when a ban enacted in an effort to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease takes effect.
The illness, which affects deer and other animals such as moose and elk, has been found as near as northern Missouri and northern Illinois. Arkansas already has a ban on importing the animals, called cervids, from outside the state.
Officials with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission say there's not a large number of deer that are kept as pets in Arkansas but the threat of disease and other problems was reason enough to put the ban in place. It does not apply to deer already being kept as pets.
Wildlife officials say those animals are often kept in unacceptable conditions, such as small pens that can lead to unsanitary conditions.
"Deer should not be treated like dogs or other pets and kept in small pens without adequate space to roam. They are very sensitive to E. coli and salmonella, which originate due to unsanitary conditions," commission deer biologist Cory Gray said.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta say there is no sound evidence that chronic wasting disease can be passed to humans, but it is easily transmitted between deer and elk.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission also says deer can be dangerous, especially bucks during mating season, and owners have suffered some severe injuries, even from animals they've kept for years.
Officials also warn that many fawns that appear to have become separated from their mothers have merely been left in a thicket while the mother roams the area to feed and should be left alone.
"A newborn fawn spends nearly 100 percent of its time hidden while the mother is feeding to build energy for nursing. Typically, this is when people come across these fawns and assume that the mother has abandoned the newborn," Gray said. "Within a month, the fawn will be following the mother nearly everywhere she goes."
Sometimes a fawn has been separated from its mother after the doe was hit by a vehicle or some other reason. In that case, Gray said a licensed wildlife rehabilitator should be contacted and the fawn left where it is. However, he said it would be appropriate to remove a fawn if it is in immediate danger, such as from a pack of dogs.
Fawns can graze on their own as young as 2 weeks, and their mothers generally wean them by 10 weeks, Gray said.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)