Captive Deer Policy - FAQ

Why is it illegal to keep deer as pets?

Captive deer pose a significant threat to Marylandís native wildlife and a potential threat to domestic livestock and people. Because captive deer are often kept in confined areas at high densities the risk of disease transmission grows exponentially. Wild animals held in captivity often suffer higher stress brought about by a reduction in immunity from nutritional deficiencies or the stress of captivity. There is also a significant risk of transmission of diseases from captive deer to free ranging wildlife.

What gives DNR the authority to regulate captive deer?
In 2002, DNR adopted a new regulation, which prohibits the possession of live Cervids which includes white-tailed deer, mule deer, moose, elk, black-tailed deer, caribou (reindeer), fallow deer, roe deer, musk deer, swamp deer, Pampas deer, tufted deer, red deer, and sika deer.

What should I do if I currently have a deer in possession?
Please call the Wildlife and Heritage Service at 410-260-8559.

What happens after I contact the DNR?
Owners of captive deer will be given up to 90 days to find suitable out-of-state facilities for their deer. DNR will assist the owner with finding an out-of-state home for the deer. No citations will be issued during the initial ďamnestyĒ period, however if the owner does not find a new home for the deer within the alloted timeframe, DNR will seek consent from the owner to allow DNR to humanely euthanize and test the deer for disease.

Can I get a permit to legally keep my deer?
No. DNR has not issued any new permits since 1984.

Can I release my deer into the wild?
No. Because of the significant health risks, at no time will the owner be permitted to release captive deer to the wild.

Who will pay for the cost of relocating the deer?
All costs associated with relocating the deer will be the responsibility of the person in possession of the deer.

Why is it necessary to euthanize deer in order to test for potential disease?
At this time, the only approved test for diseases like Chronic Wasting Disease and Rabies requires the animal to be humanely euthanized in order to test a portion of the animalís brain.

If I am a current permit holder how will I be notified if there are any changes to my permit?
DNR will mail you a letter advising you of any changes and correction actions that need to be completed.