In his third appearance before Congress this year, the TRCP’s president and CEO again pressed lawmakers to invest in surveillance and testing for the deer disease that has sent state wildlife agencies scrambling to respond
In a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) President and CEO Whit Fosburgh continued to push lawmakers on the need for more meaningful federal action in the fight against chronic wasting disease (CWD). The always-fatal disease has spread rapidly among wild deer, elk, and moose populations in recent years and creates increasing uncertainty for hunters who represent a critical source of conservation funding in America.
The committee convened to discuss creating a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service chronic wasting disease task force, but Fosburgh argued that this does not go far enough.
“Coordinating and expediting the federal response to CWD is important—and the task force proposed by this committee could help do this—but the single most important thing Congress can do to stop the spread of CWD is to give the states the resources they need to track and fight the disease in the wild,” Fosburgh testified. “Congress provided strong and consistent federal funding to assist the state wildlife agencies in responding to CWD through 2011, but when this funding ran out, states were forced to cut back on other programs to respond to the disease. Some simply stopped looking for it.”
Fosburgh pointed to the 2020 House Agriculture Appropriations bill, which would reestablish federal funding for CWD by providing $15 million to state wildlife agencies for surveillance and testing. That bill is currently in conference with the Senate, which provides just $2.5 million for wild deer in its bill.
“If members of this committee care about stopping CWD, I urge you to reach out to your colleagues on the Appropriations Committee and ask them to support the House level of $15 million in the Agriculture Appropriations bill,” he said. “Chronic wasting disease is a symptom of a systematic failure to invest in conservation. That is why America’s hunters and anglers so fervently hope that this Committee will help address the CWD crisis.”
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a neurological disease in deer, elk, moose and other members of the deer family, known as “cervids.”
The disease was first recognized in 1967 in captive mule deer in Colorado, and has since been documented in captive and free-ranging deer in states and two Canadian Provinces.
The first case of CWD in Texas was discovered in 2012 in free-ranging mule deer in an isolated area of far West Texas.
This disease presents numerous challenges for state wildlife agencies across North America. Of concern is the potential for decline within deer, elk, or other susceptible cervid populations.
In addition, CWD could have indirect impacts on hunting, hunter participation, and economic benefits derived from big game hunting.
In Texas, hunting is a $2.2 billion economic engine, supporting many rural towns across the state.
Because eradication is thought to be impossible once CWD becomes established in a population, it is imperative that a sound CWD management program is established to reduce the severity of implications resulting from the disease.
Of course, disease prevention is the best approach to protect cervid populations and prevent social and economic repercussions. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) have developed a cooperative CWD management plan to guide both agencies in addressing risks, developing management strategies, and protecting big game resources from Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in captive or free-ranging cervid populations.
MDC will conduct mandatory CWD sampling in 25 counties Nov. 11 and 12.
Check the fall deer and turkey booklet to see if your county is included.
Hunters can get deer tested for free throughout archery and firearms deer seasons.
By Jim Low
The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) needs help from hunters to keep the deadly deer disease called chronic wasting disease (CWD) from spreading to more deer in more areas of Missouri. In light of recent developments, hunters might want to take advantage of free testing for personal reasons, too.
MDC will conduct mandatory CWD sampling of hunter-harvested deer in 25 counties during the opening weekend of the fall firearms deer season, Nov. 11 and 12. Counties included in this year’s sampling effort are: Adair, Barry, Benton, Cedar, Cole, Crawford, Dade, Franklin, Hickory, Jefferson, Knox, Linn, Macon, Moniteau, Ozark, Polk, St. Charles, St. Clair, St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve, Stone, Sullivan, Taney, Warren, and Washington. These counties comprise Missouri’s CWD Management Zone. It includes counties where MDC conducted mandatory CWD testing last year, plus St. Clair County, where a new outbreak was detected earlier this year, and five adjacent counties.
MDC also has added four counties along the Arkansas border in southwest Missouri to the CWD Management Zone. CWD has not been detected in any of these counties yet, but a serious outbreak of the fatal deer disease just across the border is cause for extra vigilance there.
Hunters who harvest deer in these 25 counties during opening weekend must present their harvested deer at one of the Department’s 56 CWD sampling stations so staff can collect tissue samples to test the animals for CWD. You can find a list of sampling stations at www.mdc.mo.gov/cwd, or in the 2017 Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting Regulations booklet, which is available wherever hunting permits are sold.
In addition to the mandatory testing, MDC offers free testing for hunters who wants their deer checked for CWD. This is particularly important considering recent news about the susceptibility of some monkeys to the brain-wasting disease.
In a study led by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, macaques that were fed venison from CWD-infected deer developed the disease. The researchers noted that there still is no known case of CWD affecting humans. However, the apparent susceptibility of physiologically similar primates led them to conclude that, “the most prudent approach is to consider that CWD has the potential to infect humans.”
I am not an alarmist person by nature, and I am not going to let the small risk of shooting a CWD infected deer or the equally small risk of contracting CWD from eating infected meat, deprive me of a sport that I love and the pleasure of eating venison. However, with free testing available, I certainly will take every deer I kill to one of the eight MDC offices and 55 taxidermists around the state who are participating in the voluntary CWD sampling program. I put venison in the freezer, labeled with the date I shot the deer, and wait for test results before consuming it. That just seems sensible to me.
I also do what I can to avoid spreading CWD. For years, I put corn around my trail cameras to get better deer pictures. I stopped several years ago, when it became clear that anything that unnaturally concentrates deer and increases the potential for CWD transmission. I stopped putting out salt licks and mineral blocks for the same reason. The prions that cause CWD are shed in deer urine, so I also have stopped using urine-based deer lures.
After field-dressing deer, I usually take them home and process them myself. In the past, I got rid of carcass by putting them in the woods behind our house and letting scavengers dispose of them. No more. Now I put them in heavy trash bags and send them to the landfill, just in case they had CWD. If you take your deer to a commercial processor, you’re covered. In Missouri, they are required to send all their carcasses to approved landfills.
MDC’s regulation guide has more ideas for reducing the spread of CWD, along with tips for making the sampling process quicker and easier.
Public Comments on the Draft Plan Accepted Through September 1
Goal: Protect Wild Whitetail Deer, Moose and Captive Elk and Other Species
New York is Leading Way to Protect Wildlife and Hunter Resources
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the release of a draft New York State Interagency CWD Risk Minimization Plan for public comment. The plan describes proposed regulatory changes and actions that DEC will take to minimize the risk of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) entering or spreading in New York and was designed to protect both wild white-tailed deer and moose, as well as captive cervids including deer and elk held at enclosed facilities.
DEC biologists worked with New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets veterinarians and wildlife health experts at Cornell University to craft a comprehensive set of steps that are the most advanced CWD prevention strategies in the nation.
“New York is leading the way in protecting our valuable deer and moose herds,” said Commissioner Seggos. “Not only does this horrible disease kill animals slowly, but wild white-tailed deer hunting represents a $1.5 billion industry in the state. Our CWD Risk Minimization Plan is in the best interest of all of us who care about wildlife and especially about the health of our wild white-tail deer herd. Governor Cuomo’s commitment to high-quality hunting opportunities in New York also supports our taking action now to prevent a serious problem down the road.”
Disease prevention is the only cost-effective way to keep CWD out of New York. Together with the State Department of Agriculture and Markets, New York is using cutting-edge science and common sense to ensure that everything possible is done to protect the state’s wild deer and moose and captive deer and elk herds from CWD.
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “The Department’s veterinarians and licensed veterinary technicians were responsible for the early detection of New York’s only CWD incident and played critical roles in the response to the discovery of CWD in 2005. Our staff continue to work hard to control the risk of this serious disease and maintain our early detection system. This plan will further support these efforts to protect our wildlife.”
CWD, an always fatal brain disease found in species of the deer family, was discovered in Oneida County wild and captive white-tailed deer in 2005. More than 47,000 deer have been tested statewide since 2002, and there has been no reoccurrence of the disease since 2005. New York is the only state to have eliminated CWD once it was found in wild populations. In North America, CWD has been found in 24 states and two Canadian provinces including neighboring Pennsylvania and Ohio.
CWD was first identified in Colorado in 1967 and is caused by infectious prions, which are misfolded proteins that cannot be broken down by the body’s normal processes. They cause holes to form in the brain. Prions are found in deer parts and products including urine and feces; they can remain infectious in soil for years and even be taken up into plant tissues. CWD is in the same family of diseases, transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, as “mad cow” disease in cattle. Millions of cattle were destroyed because of mad cow disease in England and Europe in the 1990s and the disease also caused a fatal brain condition in some humans that ate contaminated beef products. Although there have been no known cases of CWD in humans, the Centers for Disease Control recommends that no one knowingly eat CWD-positive venison.
The proposed plan would streamline operations between DEC and the State Department of Agriculture and strengthen the state’s regulations to prevent introduction of CWD. Some examples of the proposed changes include:
Prohibit the importation of certain parts from any CWD-susceptible cervid taken outside of New York. Require that these animals be deboned or quartered and only the meat, raw hide or cape, and cleaned body parts, such as skull cap, antlers, jaws, and teeth, or finished taxidermy mounts be allowed for import into the state.
Prohibit the retail sale, possession, use, and distribution of deer or elk urine and any products from CWD-susceptible animals that may contain prions, including glands, or other excreted material while allowing New York captive cervid facilities to continue to export deer urine outside of New York State.
Maintain and reinforce the prohibition on the feeding of wild deer and moose in New York State.
Provide DEC Division of Law Enforcement the necessary authority to enforce Department of Agriculture and Market’s CWD regulations.
Explore possible penalties or charges to defray costs associated with the removal of escaped cervids from the environment or the response to disease outbreaks.
Require all taxidermists and deer processors (people who butcher deer for hire) to dispose of cervid waste and waste byproducts in compliance with 6 NYCRR Part 360, such as in a municipal landfill.
Promotion of improved fencing methods for captive cervids to further prevent contact with wild deer or moose.
Partner with the State Department of Agriculture and Markets to enhance captive cervid testing while continuing DEC’s rigorous surveillance testing in hunter-harvested deer.
Improve record keeping and data sharing between departments through joint inspections of captive cervid facilities, electronic reporting, and animal marking.
Improve handling requirements, record keeping, and disease testing of wild white-tailed deer temporarily held in captivity for wildlife rehabilitation.
Develop a communication plan and strategy to re-engage stakeholders, including captive cervid owners and the public, in CWD risk minimization measures and updates on CWD research.
The New York State Interagency CWD Risk Minimization Plan has had extensive outreach and vetting by sporting groups in the state to address the concerns of myriad stakeholders while maintaining the strength of purpose to protect the public and the environment. The plan updates reporting requirements, improves communication to stakeholders, and simplifies regulations to reduce confusion while protecting our natural resources.
The draft plan is available for public review on the DEC website. Written comments on the draft plan will be accepted through September 1, 2017. Comments can be submitted by e-mail (email@example.com, subject: “CWD Plan”) or by writing to NYSDEC, Bureau of Wildlife, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754.