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Overlook Deer Farm open for visitors

  • ELSA KERSCHNER/TIMES NEWS Wanda Crostley of Lehighton feeds a deer at Overlook Deer Farm.
    ELSA KERSCHNER/TIMES NEWS Wanda Crostley of Lehighton feeds a deer at Overlook Deer Farm.
Published May 08. 2012 05:01PM

Rebecca Cunfer of Evergrowing Inspirations presented an outdoor program showing skins, bones, horns, antlers and more at the Overlook Deer Farm on May 5.

"I'll show you all sorts of neat things," she said, as she waited for the last visitors to arrive. There were also crafts such as flowerpots made from paper with seeds to plant before they are taken home, and rocks to paint as garden decorations.

She interned on what Terry McCullion termed his hobby farm, a deer farm in East Penn Township. Cunfer told him he should share it with other people and he told her to go ahead. It took her three years to get the first tours scheduled in conjunction with her Inspirations program.

Cunfer showed a deer hide and said the hairs are hollow and it helps the deer be good swimmers by adding buoyancy. Antlers are made of calcium with blood vessels that restrict. Eventually the antlers fall off and grow anew the following year. A horn is made of the same material as fingernails or hair. They are hollow.

She picks up a wood turtle shell and said it was given to insects at the Carbon County Environmental Education Society to clean the shell after it was found dead.

A turkey tail fan and the legs showing the long sharp toes were demonstrated. The toes are needed as turkeys scratch for their food.

But then it is time for the event everyone was waiting to see. The gate to the trail through the deer pens is opened. Everyone is given food to feed the deer. They especially like shredded wheat (which is a treat) but are fed a molasses-based food much like that given to steers.

The fence around the large pens is covered by black plastic so the deer are not disturbed and to deter hunters. However, four-legged hunters were harder to deter. They climb the 10-foot fence and have hurt several deer.

Many of the deer had been bottlefed and are used to people. In an attempt to keep a natural behavior hay is fed in an upside-down barrel and has to be pulled out. Apples or other treats are hidden in the pen to be found by chance.

Some of the males are sold to hunting ranches. Others are kept and their urine is collected to be sold to hunters. Cunfer said some of the deer learn to urinate as soon as they are put in a chute.

The pens are rocky to help keep their hooves in good condition as they would be worn down normally in the wild. When necessary the hooves will be trimmed.

All fawns born in one year will be raised together. Cunfer showed how the antlers are warm from blood circulation and let other people feel them.

In the pen of does, which has the largest number, there are animals from 1 to 5 years old with one buck.

Owner McCullion is breeding for larger bucks.

Each deer has a name and the state requires two forms of identification with one ear tab on the outside where they chew each other's and one deeper in the ear.

They are vaccinated for tetanus and brucellosis, a requirement if they are to be moved across a state line. Worming is done as a food supplement.

One albino and several piebalds (two colors) were born at the farm.

"Deer are very curious animals," said Cunfer. "The white tail is the sign of distress when they run and the tail is up."

Although venison is one of the healthiest meat products, none are sold for that purpose. For Barb McCullion they are all pets, not meat.

For information contact

Cunfer said as more people visit the farm she will develop a program for older groups that focuses more on management practices.

Programs are scheduled throughout the summer at the deer farm and at Lehigh Gap Nature Center. For information check

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