The Department of Natural Resources is giving 15 farmers of white-tailed deer more time to meet new regulations which would legalize their operations.

The new regulations, which include a prohibition on the sale of deer meat, were to go into effect Nov. 14. However, Natural Resources Minister Paul Robichaud said only two of the 15 farmers were prepared to apply for a permit at the deadline, so the province is extending the deadline by another six months.

"After all those months, they are telling us they are not in position to fulfill some of those regulations," said Robichaud. "So  I want to understand what is their concern and for those reasons I am giving an extension of six months starting today."

Some farmers in the northeast have told CBC News that the prohibition on selling deer meat could put some of the farmers out of business.

Along with a prohibition on selling deer meat, the regulations would:

  • establish standards for the height of fencing that encloses a private deer herd
  • require ear-tagging of all the private herd for identification
  • require regular health inspections of the animals
  • hunting of penned deer would be prohibited

Robichaud said he hasn't ruled out changing some of the regulations but he says he will wait until he meets with the deer farmers before making any decisions.

The regulations are aimed at protecting the province's wildlife from the spread of conditions such as chronic wasting disease.

The latest move to legalize the illegal deer farms through regulation comes after the provincial government flip-flopped on its plans to shut down the operations entirely.

The 15 illegal deer farms had been given until June 25, 2012 to close their operations of face prosecution following the death of Saint-Léonard deer farmer Donald Dubé, who was attacked and killed by a buck in his backyard deer pen in October 2011.

However, that decision was delayed after complaints by the deer farmers so the government could study the issue. Then in March 2013, Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup did a complete about-face and announced the deer farms would legalized and subject to regulations.

At the time, Northrup stated the farmers would be probited from selling white-tailed deer meat and other white-tailed products within the province.

"If we allowed farmed white-tailed deer to be slaughtered and sold here, this would open the door to poachers who could sell wild deer meat and claim it came from farmed animals," said Northrup in a statement in March.

"This would be a threat to our wild deer population."