Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Game Commission My Ban Use Of Deer Urine

HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania Game Commissioners are going to at least consider the idea of banning the use of deer urine for hunting statewide.
Chronic wasting disease is the reason.
The disease has spread across the country in recent years. That's troublesome, said Justin Brown, the commission's wildlife veterinarian. He told board members there's no way to treat it, no way to test an animal for it without killing it, and virtually no way to eradicate it once it's discovered in the wild.
Every deer that gets the disease dies, Brown said. In a state like Pennsylvania, where deer hunting has an annual economic impact of $1 billion, that's a big deal, he said.
“You have to realize the magnitude of what we're dealing with here,” Brown told commissioners.
A ban on using urine might slow or stop the disease's spread, he suggested.
Urine — collected on deer farms with “little or no” regulatory oversight — contains the prions that harbor the disease. During collection, it often comes in contact with feces and saliva, both of which are more likely to harbor disease, Brown said.
Hunters then sprinkle the urine, from does in heat, on the ground to attract rutting bucks.
The trouble, Brown said, is prions can exist in soil for a long time and even be taken up by plants. That means once the disease enters the environment, it's likely there long term, Brown said.
“So if there was a time to take a proactive measure, I believe it is now,” he added.
Four states — Virginia, Vermont, Arizona and Alaska — have already banned urine use. Here, ironically, the use of deer urine is illegal in the commission's three disease management areas, where wasting disease is already known to exist, but it's legal everywhere else.
At least one board member isn't so sure that's a problem.
Commissioner Brian Hoover of Delaware County said wasting disease and the use of deer urine have been around for decades, and there's never been shown to be a definitive link between the two. Rather, the spread of disease is most likely something that's happened “on wheels,” as captive deer breeders moved sick animals around the country, he said.
Given that, he's not sure a ban that will hurt an industry and hunters is warranted.
Brown said it's impossible to say with absolute certainty that a urine ban will slow or stop the spread of wasting disease.
“I think it comes down to controlling what you can, and not making it worse,” he said.
Commission president Dave Putnam of Centre County seemed to agree.
“I think there are two issues: what are the risks and what are the possible consequences? And the consequences would be catastrophic,” Putnam said.
Putnam asked Brown to return to the board with a proposed urine ban for its Sept. 28-29 meeting in DuBois, but only after talking to archery hunters — those most likely to use the urines — and the deer farmers who collect and sell it.
Final approval of any ban would occur early next year at the earliest, so there will be time for public input, he added.
No ban need be permanent, Brown said. If deer farmers can develop a disease-free version of deer urine, that could be made legal down the road, Brown said. In the meantime, they could continue selling their existing product in states where urine remains legal for use, he added.
Pennsylvania hunters, Brown said, could use widely available synthetic urine products until then.
Deer feeding
One other thing that's illegal within the confines of disease management areas — but legal everywhere else — is the feeding of deer.
Commissioner Ron Weaner of Adams County asked if it might be time to ban that statewide.
One thing biologists and veterinarians caution about with wasting disease is concentrating deer, something that could lead to them passing disease around faster, he said. That's exactly what feeding does, he said.
“If we ban this statewide, would we accomplish anything?” Weaner asked.
Not necessarily, veterinarian Justin Brown said.
— Bob Frye

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