Sunday, August 3, 2003

Deer rules hurt some

Owners seek holiday break

The Associated Press

CHAPLIN, Ky. - A father and son who exhibit reindeer around the Christmas holiday are asking the state to ease restrictions they say are stifling business.

Lonnie and Travis Flora for two years have traveled with their three reindeer during the holidays, displaying the animals at malls, auto dealerships and Christmas tree lots across the state.

But weeks before the Floras embarked on their annual Christmastime tour last November, Gov. Paul Patton announced a ban on transporting deer and other members of the cervid family as part of an effort to protect the state's deer from chronic wasting disease, a deadly neurological ailment.

Prohibited from moving the reindeer, the Floras were forced to cancel all their bookings for their animals Rudy, Clarice and Vixen. The animals are kept on the family's 27-acre farm on the Nelson-Anderson County border.

"Last year we lost about $6,000 to $7,000 of revenue," said Lonnie Flora, 59, the father.

The ban on in-state transport was lifted this spring, but deer must be kept in the trailer in which they were transported, a prospect that might spoil a display of the animals.

So now, almost five months before Christmas, the Floras are fighting to further ease the restrictions. Last week, they took their case to a Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources committee.

"They have really nothing major against the display of reindeer," Travis Flora said after the meeting. "However, if they open the door for reindeer, anybody else that has every other type of deer is going to want the same type of freedoms and privileges."

Patton's office estimates the annual impact of deer-related recreational activities in Kentucky to be $350 million, including thousands of jobs. Statewide, sales of deer permits generate $4 million annually.

So far, chronic wasting disease hasn't been reported in Kentucky. The closest case was in Illinois.

But if show locations don't like the idea of crowds gathered around a trailer, "we might as well get out of the reindeer business, then," Lonnie Flora said.

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