The government is us; we are the government, you and I. -Theodore Roosevelt

B&C Position Statement - Deer and Elk Breeding

First Adopted January 8, 2015 - Revised August 30, 2022

Situational Overview

Breeders of captive, native North American cervids, primarily white-tailed deer and elk, raise these animals to sell as breeding stock, as trophy animals for fee-based shooting operations, or to produce meat, semen, velvet, and other saleable parts. The number of farms, ranches and other facilities engaged in this business has been growing rapidly over the past decade, and breeding captive cervids has become a billion-dollar industry in some states. As this industry grows, so do concerns over regulating this industry and the management of captive deer and elk.
In recent years, the captive cervid industry has lobbied for white-tailed deer to be reclassified from wildlife to livestock such as cattle, with the objective of transferring regulatory authority from fish and game departments to departments of agriculture to obtain oversight more favorable to their industry. In jurisdictions where such transfer has occurred, regulation and oversight of captive-cervid facilities has deteriorated, which has led to increased escapes and enhanced risk for transmission of CWD and other diseases to free-ranging wildlife. 

In addition, breeders have sought to claim private ownership of the captive cervids they raise. Since the 19th century, the Public Trust Doctrine has affirmed that states own wildlife and manage it in trust for the benefit of the public. This is fundamental to North America’s approach to wildlife conservation—which is the most successful in the world—as described by the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. The majority of state legislatures have codified the Public Trust Doctrine in their statutes.1  

Researchers have determined that human-assisted transportation of live, captive cervids to distant locations is likely the most significant factor contributing to the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). CWD is a contagious, always fatal disease that affects cervids. CWD transmission between wild and captive cervids can occur in either direction through fence-line contact or through the escape of captive animals. There is currently no treatment or vaccine for CWD, and no reliable test for detecting CWD in live animals. CWD has been detected in captive and wild cervid populations in more than half of the U.S. states and several Canadian provinces. It is continuing to spread to new locations across North America despite efforts to slow the geographic expansion of affected areas.2  

As the nation’s oldest wildlife conservation organization, the Boone and Crockett Club is concerned with any issue that prevents wild, free-ranging big game populations from thriving in the long term and practices it deems unlikely to produce socially acceptable and sustainable results for wildlife.    


The Club supports the Public Trust Doctrine and opposes any legislation sponsored by the captive-cervid industry that allows transfer of management authority over their industry from state, provincial, or tribal wildlife agencies to other management authorities such as agriculture departments. The Club also opposes efforts by breeders to privatize any native species of big game that normally lives undomesticated and in the wild. The Club recognizes and endorses the importance of private property rights, but maintains that what is best for wildlife is for it to remain a public and not a private resource. The Club contends that wildlife has far greater value to more people if it remains an untamed expression of the natural world.  

The Boone and Crockett Club supports those federal and state/provincial/tribal agencies seeking to reduce the spread of CWD and other diseases to both captive and wild cervid populations, including but not limited to: (i) prohibiting or restricting the establishment of new breeding and canned-hunt operations; (ii) adopting stricter regulations, including importation bans, governing the transport of captive cervids; (iii) requiring permanent, visible identification on all cervids released from captive breeding facilities for any purpose; and (iv) prohibiting the release of captive animals from fenced breeding or shooting operations into wild, unfenced habitat as the danger to native wildlife from CWD is overwhelming. 

1 A few states have made an exception to state ownership of wild animals that are legally owned or held in captivity under a state-issued license or permit.  
2 The Club acknowledges the transportation of wild deer, elk, and other cervids by state agencies and non-governmental organizations for the purpose of re-establishing wild game animals to their historic open ranges does not offer the same risks of spreading disease as commercial breeding operations, and restoration activities serve important conservation goals. The Club also recognizes that not all deer and elk in captivity are raised for commercial purposes, and that an escape-proof fence around a property does not by itself imply the landowner’s intentions regarding the uses or treatment of wildlife contained there.      

The Boone and Crockett Club publishes position statements to inform and educate people about conservation and hunting issues. Thus, there is no charge for personal and non-commercial use of its position statements, but reprinting or re-use of any portions of a position statement shall credit the Boone and Crockett Club as the source. Any such use shall remain subject to all rights of the Boone and Crockett Club.

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"The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak. So we must and we will."

-Theodore Roosevelt