Using shotguns and rifles, the wildlife officers shot and killed seven fallow deer and two whitetails.
Pen owner Wayne Kindley of Hoover Hill Road in Asheboro later called a local television station and complained NCWRC officers had swooped down upon his establishment with no warning and began shooting his animals.
His story and the television report generated sympathy for his and his deer's plight.
"They sent a bunch of guys in with 12-gauge shotguns and started blasting," Kindley told WGHP-TV 8 (High Point) reporter Chad Tucker. "Deer were running everywhere. It was not a sight for anyone to see. They were judge and jury, and convicted my deer within a matter of 30 to 45 minutes."
Kindley has received a citation for keeping unregistered deer in his pens.
The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission received negative publicity regarding its actions, which was followed a few days later by a similar incident in Surry County in which two penned deer fawns were killed by WRC officers.
However, Isaac Harrold, the agency's Division of Wildlife Management assistant manager, said the public didn't have all the facts regarding the Asheboro incident.
"(Mr. Kindley) had been made aware of the need to have licensing and permits (for his cervid animals)," Harrold said.
Kindley told the TV reporter he had been operating an animal rehabilitation facility for "30 years" and had been working with white-tailed deer for seven years. Kindley also admitted he had permits for the whitetails but not for the fallow deer, but said he didn't know he needed fallow-deer permits.
The WRC has had regulations for holding and transporting "cervids" (whitetails, fallow deer, elk, moose, and mule deer) for eight years because of the possibility chronic wasting disease might enter the state and be transmitted to wild whitetails through the purchase and transport of infected animals from other states.
CWD is a disease of the central nervous system that is fatal to deer in about 95 percent of all infections.
"Recent actions by the N. C. Wildlife Resources Commission to confiscate and euthanize deer prompted numerous responses, some of which are based on incomplete or inaccurate information," NCWRC Executive Director Gordon Myers said in a news release. "Our actions were performed in the interest of wildlife conservation and public safety. Our officers and biologists implemented agency policies in strict accordance with state law and with the utmost professionalism, respect, and consideration.
"In keeping with the agency's mission to conserve wildlife resources and to communicate the importance of healthy wildlife, I offer the following clarification of the reasons those actions were undertaken."
The reasons outlined in the news release are:
• White-tailed deer are native wildlife that are important to the ecology of North Carolina and belong to all citizens of the state.
• To safeguard this public trust, it is unlawful for individuals to hold or confine deer without a permit.
• Requirements for holding deer in captivity are necessary to safeguard the health and safety of wildlife resources, livestock and humans.
• North Carolina law requires that any deer, elk or other member of the family cervidae held in captivity must be in a facility licensed by the NCWRC. Strict record keeping of the origin and movement of cervids, as well as health, status and disposition of animals in a licensed facility, is required. These requirements are in place to minimize the potential for transfer of dangerous wildlife diseases, including chronic wasting disease and tuberculosis. They also are designed to provide early detection and containment of diseases should they be discovered.
• In addition to testing captive cervids, the NCWRC also tests free-ranging white-tailed deer in accordance with surveillance protocols established in North Carolina's Chronic Wasting Disease Response Plan.
• Since the 1980s, CWD has been detected in 19 states, including West Virginia (2005), Virginia (2010) and Maryland (2011).
• CWD is a debilitating and usually fatal disease of cervids that has caused serious ecological and economic impact in areas where it has become established. Due to the severity of the potential impacts from CWD, extensive surveillance programs that monitor CWD distribution and prevalence have been instituted nationwide.
• In order to minimize the threat of its importation and establishment, North Carolina in 2003 implemented stringent requirements and restrictions on importation and confinement of cervids. These requirements are instrumental in preventing the establishment of CWD. Modeling research in the state of Wisconsin where CWD was detected in 2002 suggests that, if left unmanaged, CWD will spread throughout Wisconsin resulting in an infection rate in adult deer of at least 40 percent. These research results are mirrored by current data in Colorado and Wyoming, where in some areas average infection rates exceed 40 percent across thousands of square miles, suggesting the disease continues to spread widely across the landscape.
• Our actions are intended to avoid these consequences in North Carolina.
Kindley's deer, kept in a two-acre fence, were killed to be tested for CWD. There is no method to test live deer for the disease.
No cases of CWD have appeared in North Carolina, although the contagion is in one northwestern Virginia county and appears to be spreading slowly southward.
Myers went on to note that two types of authorized facilities exist in North Carolina for holding deer. Both are required to be permitted or licensed and inspected for humane care and compliance with requirements for thorough record-keeping and disease testing.
Fawn rehabilitators are specially trained to rehabilitate injured or orphaned white-tailed deer fawns. They are authorized to temporarily hold fawn deer for release back into the wild.
Free-ranging adult deer held in captivity, even for relatively short periods, can lose their natural fear of humans. These deer are not suitable for reintroduction into the wild and pose serious public-safety risks, including human injury and death.
Yet Kindley said that after 30 years as a wildlife rehabilitator and owner of a deer farm he had no idea what he was doing was not up to current regulations.
"I didn't know anything was wrong until today," he said. "They wouldn't even give me a chance to plead my case to a court or anyone."
Harrold said the WRC, after giving notices to deer owners that they may be inspected at any time (as occurred with Kindley), doesn't give advance warning when a warrant will be served.
"If a person illegally holding deer discovers in advance a warrant is likely to be served, we think there is a significant risk they may release the deer into the wild," Harrold said. "We're pretty sure it's happened in the past."
Law enforcement officers aren't required to and usually don't give advance warnings when preparing to serve warrants for the same reason - potential destruction of hiding of evidence.
Kindley, who must pay a fine for keeping unregistered deer, will have a court appearance. He said he had contacted an attorney, and his neighbors started a petition and said they have contacted state lawmakers.