Tammy Smith (left) looks out over the pin from which five deer escaped July 24 through a cut portion of fence wire at Bama Bob's Whitetails farm in Chilton County.
Tammy Smith (left) looks out over the pen from which five deer escaped July 24 through a cut portion of fence wire at Bama Bob's Whitetails farm in Chilton County.

Archived Story

Missing deer returns to farm

Published 6:00pm Monday, July 29, 2013

Bob Bingham and Tammy Smith were running out of time and hope Monday morning as they waited for their missing Myra to come home.

Myra, who will turn 1 year old in August, is one of five deer that escaped from a pen at Bama Bob’s Whitetails LLC, a game breeder farm in Chilton County, the evening of July 24.

The deer escaped through a section of fence wire that had been cut the morning of July 24, according to Smith, who manages the farm.

Bingham owns and operates Bama Bob’s Whitetails, where he, Smith and a friend breed and raise deer to sell to game preserve owners.

Neither he nor Smith noticed the cut fence or escaped deer until they began to feed the deer at about 5 p.m. July 24 and noted that Myra, who normally comes to the gate when they bring the soy and corn feed out, failed to show.

“I was here the whole time, but I was up in the office doing paperwork (and) didn’t see them,” Smith said of the escaped deer.

When Myra didn’t come to the gate for feed, Bingham and Smith began searching in and around the pen for her and discovered seven places where the welding fence wire had been cut, as well as the absence of three steel fence poles along the back side of pin No. 3.

They immediately called the Chilton County Sheriff’s Department to file an incident report.

Although neither noticed any trespassers on the farm July 24, they surmised the fence poles had been removed and the wire cut by a person, possibly more than one person, with pliers.

“You’d have to have wire pliers to cut the fence,” Bingham said. “It was cut at every pole.”

They patched the fence temporarily to keep the deer from escaping again but will eventually have to replace the 170 feet of damaged 8-foot fence wire, worth about $300.

The three fence poles have not been found and will cost about $50 to replace.

But aside from the fence damage and replacement costs, Smith and Bingham were concerned about losing deer they’ve raised on their farm, located 2.9 miles outside the city of Jemison on County Road 42 West.

“This is the first time we’ve ever had to deal with this,” Smith said.

In addition to filing a report with local law enforcement authorities, Smith and Bingham had to notify the state that one of their deer was missing.

Smith reported Myra’s absence from the farm to Joe Johnston, conservation enforcement officer area sergeant with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

As with all game breeders in Alabama, Smith and Bingham have to register every deer that is born or brought onto their farm with the state, and they must maintain an up-to-date inventory of their deer so the state can ensure no animals have been brought in illegally from other states.

“Game breeders are unique in that they have an inventory that they maintain legally,” Johnston said and added that prohibiting deer from being brought to Alabama farms from other states helps keep deer that have chronic wasting disease (a transmissible neurological disease among deer and elk) from contaminating healthy deer on farms.

“We don’t have any chronic wasting disease in Alabama,” Johnston said. “There’s never been a documented case, but that’s what they’re trying to keep out of here with these regulations.”

Of the five deer that escaped, Myra was the only deer not recovered July 24.

As of Monday morning, Myra was still missing and Smith and Bingham were growing more concerned by the minute.

They were anxious for them to find Myra or for her to return on her own as quickly as possible because the state would only allow a limited amount of time—possibly only a week—until requiring that the missing deer be eliminated from the farm’s inventory.

“Once it goes off her inventory, (they) can never bring it back on (their) inventory,” Johnston said. “Even if the deer comes back, once we’ve made that decision, (they) can never put it back in that pen. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

Smith said she and Bingham left the pin closest to their driveway open in case Myra came home on her own.

They were relieved to discover her in the open pen at about 3 p.m. July 29, nearly six days after the five deer had escaped from the damaged pen July 24.

The sheriff’s office’s investigation of the missing fence poles is ongoing.

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