SAMUEL: Threats from Chronic Wasting Disease continue

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) was first found in West Virginia in 2005.  For those hunters who thought that it would be possible to isolate the problem and things would go back to normal, you were mistaken.  

CWD is not going away, and slowly but surely it is spreading everywhere.  Can we stop the spread?  Based on the science we know have, we can’t stop CWD.  There are things states can do to slow the spread, and those are being done.  Some states are doing more than others, but the spread continues.  

Some states have a tougher time slowing CWD than others because they have lots of deer farms.  For example, Pennsylvania has over 760 deer farms and fenced deer shooting preserves.  These facilities exacerbate the spread of CWD.  In December 2020 a deer was shot at a Pennsylvania hunting facility five miles from the New York border in an area that previously had no CWD.  It was tested for CWD and the positive results became known in May 2021.  That facility was immediately quarantined, and all deer there were euthanized.  None tested positive.  

Of course New York is very concerned about the presence of CWD so close to their border.  They are taking added precautions in that area to make sure hunters do not bring dead deer that have not been processed into the state.  

In June Minnesota had 13 deer test positive for CWD at a captive deer facility hundreds of miles from a CWD endemic area.  It was determined by state officials that those deer were transported from a facility in the CWD endemic area located in the southeastern part of the state.  During the investigation it was found that the owner of the facility had been dumping infected deer carcasses on nearby public land for years.  The governor then recommended transferring control of captive deer farms from the Board of Animal Health to the DNR. That proposal opened up various political issues in the legislature where the Republicans shot down the Governor’s proposal.  When it comes to CWD, politics trumps biology in Minnesota, as it does in many states.    

There are over 1,200 deer breeders in Texas.  Yes, it is a huge industry there, but also a source for CWD.  In May the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife began an investigation after a CWD flare-up at deer breeding facilities in five counties.  The investigation is attempting to trace the location of several hundred deer sold from the breeding facilities.  This gives you some idea of the difficulty states have when attempting to trace CWD deer. Unless the facility does testing and keeps accurate records, tracing CWD deer or deer found on breeding farms where CWD has been found, is impossible.  

Led by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partners, several national-level organizations are urging U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to provide leadership and coordination on the CWD crisis.  They have urged him to implement a moratorium on the interstate movement of all live deer.  They also want him to convene an emergency meeting of the CWD interagency task force that was authorized by Congress in 2020 to develop an immediate federal response to contain CWD.  These things need to happen soon.