Chronic Wasting Disease gains national attentionMarch 13, 2019
Column by Brandon Butler
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) continues to gain more and more national attention as new states are added to the dreaded list of those home to infected deer. So far, Indiana is not on that list.
But the state is surrounded and has had more than its fair share of captive deer transported in and around, along with imported hunter killed carcasses. Tennessee “didn’t have” CWD six months ago. Now they’ve discovered nearly 200 positives. So not having CWD might just mean it hasn’t been discovered yet.
CWD is sadly treated similar to climate change. Meaning, nearly every person who can read and is of pure intentions, understands it is real and a very serious threat. There are, of course, a few who refuse to believe in science and have formulated their own fairytales or bought into others’ conspiracies. Even worse, are those who know it’s real, and recognize the serious and horrible implications, but are still willing to trade tomorrow for today. They are financially invested in an industry that continues to put wild deer at risk and just can’t let go of just how lucrative selling fake hunts is, so they try to dispel the disease and influence lawmakers with money and misinformation.
Thankfully, the science is being stood up for by those we scientifically trust our natural resources to. Last week at the 84th North American Wildlife & Natural Resources Conference, state directors approved a statement entitled Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Statement on Chronic Wasting Disease Etiology
A press release issued states, “This statement was drafted by leading experts in wildlife disease management and affirms the current scientific consensus that Chronic Wasting Disease, a 100% fatal disease of deer, elk, moose, and reindeer, is caused by a misfolded protein called a ‘prion’.”
The statement reads, “Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) are a family of diseases that have been documented in numerous mammalian species, including cattle, sheep, humans, and members of the deer family (Cervidae or cervids), among others. Decades of scientific research have been dedicated to understanding the cause and treatment of TSEs, including chronic wasting disease (CWD) of cervids. The consensus that has emerged from this research indicates that prions (misfolded proteins) are the causative agents of TSEs, including CWD.”
This powerful statement was issued to dispel rumor and set the record straight on what causes CWD and how dangerous the disease is.
“Recent media coverage has focused on alternative theories that suggest that Chronic Wasting Disease may be caused by bacteria or other sources,” said Ed Carter, President of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and Executive Director of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. “We felt that until there was definitive proof otherwise, it was important that the Association go on record as supporting the overwhelming scientific consensus that Chronic Wasting Disease is caused by mutated protein known as prions.”
When you dig in and look at CWD management across the country, you can see the benefits or ramifications to selected styles of dealing with the disease. Take Illinois for example. CWD was discovered in Illinois in 2002, but you don’t hear a lot about the disease there. Today, there have been 736 positives discovered from a sample size of 114,534. The reason Illinois has been able to keep the disease somewhat at bay is largely because of a strong targeted surveillance program that attacks the disease where it is known to be, which requires aggressive culling.
On the other hand, Wisconsin is a disaster. Also discovered in the state in 2002, CWD has spread like wildfire, because one of the worst natural resources administrations in modern times decided to basically do nothing about the disease and let it spread. They now have CWD in 56 counties with areas where 50 percent of bucks harvested are infected. Thankfully, citizens made a change in political leadership and regulation changes are being made but that genie is going to be real tough to put back in the bottle. Other states continue to learn from Wisconsin’s mistakes.
“I strongly support the statement that is being released by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies today,” said Bob Duncan, Director of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and chair of the Association’s Fish and Wildlife Health Committee. “Our nation’s hunters deserve to have the best available scientifically credible information about this deadly disease, and to know that our state, federal, provincial, and territorial wildlife agencies are doing everything within their power to stop its spread.”
CWD is a real and serious threat to the future of white-tailed deer and deer hunting as we know it today. There is currently no way to treat an infected deer. If they catch it, they will die.
The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies States, “CWD must be managed with available science-based tools that include, but are not limited to, regulation of live cervid and carcass movements, prohibition of activities that congregate susceptible species, targeted removal, hunting, surveillance and monitoring, and public education.”
See you down the trail…
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