Fox out, deer in as state mammal in House bill

Step aside, gray fox. The white-tailed deer is the chosen one.

State lawmakers on Monday voted overwhelmingly to approve legislation naming the ubiquitous deer Georgia’s official state mammal. While House Bill 70 originally bestowed that honor to the gray fox, bill sponsor Rep. Carolyn Hugley, D-Columbus, said the change came at the request of the Department of Natural Resources.

The bill grew out of a Boy Scout project, Hugley said as first-graders at Reese Road Leadership Academy in Columbus realized Georgia was one of three states with no state mammal. The children chose the fox, she said, but “were convinced” by DNR to choose the deer instead.

The bill passed the House 163-2, with Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom McCall, R-Elberton, and Rep. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson, voting no.

McCall had a serious concern about the bill and few kind things to say about the animal.

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“If this aggravating nuisance of an animal becomes the state symbol, is it ever going to be where we can’t protect our property and crops just because it happens to be the state mammal?” McCall said.

Hugley assured him that the deer will gain no new protections from irate farmers.

Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, had a more personal concern: What happens to venison jerky, venison sausage, venison burgers?

“This will not impede my ability to eat this fine-looking deer?” he asked.

Hugley also assured Williams that it would not.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

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