At least one red deer, one of the largest species of the animal, escaped Sunday from Peaslee Mountain Hunt Park in Jefferson after someone cut the locks off the park gates.
Forest Peaslee, who runs the hunt park, reported the incident to the Maine Department of Agriculture, which regulates domestic deer.
“They talked to me this morning, and they were going to send an investigator out and someone to dispose of the deer,” he said.
Maine State Veterinarian Michele Walsh stated that they are aware of the situation and are monitoring it, but declined to make further comment.
According to Maine law, farmers are required to report escapes to the Maine Department of Agriculture within 24 hours, and to get the deer back into their pastures within 72 hours. After that, the department begins working with the farmers to get the animals back in a variety of ways, including harvesting the deer.
Peaslee worries that the other animals — three red deer and an elk — will escape the park through a damaged fence and also need to be put down.
“One animal is out, and we don’t know how many more — because there were four more in there,” Peaslee said Tuesday afternoon. “This was all done because of a disgruntled neighbor.”
With 400 acres of heavily wooded hills, meadows, feed plots, a stream and a marsh, Peaslee Mountain Hunt Park is a safe and private environment for people to hunt for deer, elk and bison in a wild setting, according to Peaslee. The hunt park season runs from Sept. 1, when animals in velvet are available, until Feb. 28, when racks and hides are in the best condition.
Peaslee runs a farm across the road, where he cares for 40 additional animals. He knew at least one red deer escaped the preserve when he saw it on his farmland on Sunday.
“I’m concerned that if they’ve done this to my hunt preserve, they’re going to do this on my farm,” he said. “I take really good care of my animals. I’m really proud of it, and my wife is too. It’s what I love doing.”
“The law should be changed,” Peaslee said. “It’s just a shame that the animals are taking the hit on this.”
Peasley started raising animals on his farm in the ’90s and leased land to open a hunt park in the 2000s to support his farm.
“It’s not the state’s fault,” he said. “They’re doing what the law says, and it’s a shame that it’s written that way.”