Deer Management

Captive Deer Policy

Frequently Asked Questions

What gives the Department of Natural Resources the authority to regulate captive deer?

In 2002, the department 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.

Wild animals kept as pets are one of the greatest threats to people and our wild resources. With the advent of new and deadly pathogens for deer, the Department’s response is not only appropriate, but biologically responsible.

Why is it illegal to keep deer as pets?

Captive deer pose a significant threat to Maryland’s 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 should I do if I currently have a deer in possession?

Please call the Wildlife and Heritage Service at 410-260-8540 or Toll-free in Maryland: 1-877-620-8DNR, Ext. 8540.

What happens after I contact the department?

Owners of captive deer will be given up to 90 days to find suitable out-of-state facilities for their deer. The department will assist the owner with finding an out-of-state home for the deer. No citations will be issued during the initial “amnesty” period; however, if the owner does not find a new home for the deer within the alloted timeframe, the department will seek consent from the owner to allow the department to humanely euthanize and test the deer for disease.

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 animal’s brain.

Can I get a permit to legally keep my deer?

No. The department 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.

If I am a current permit holder how will I be notified if there are any changes to my permit?

The department will mail you a letter advising you of any changes and corrective actions that need to be completed.


For additional information about white-tailed deer in Maryland, contact:
Brian Eyler, Deer Project Leader
Game Program
Wildlife and Heritage Service
Maryland Department of Natural Resource
Phone: 301-842-0332