Sunday, October 14, 2012

Presence Of Chronic Wasting Disease Will Prove Costly

By Bob Frye Tribune-Review

The announcement last week that chronic wasting disease was discovered in the state does not signal the end of Pennsylvania’s deer herd. But make no mistake, say the experts: Pennsylvania, its Game Commission and sportsmen are about to go down a serious, expensive path.
Wasting disease, or CWD, has so far been found in just one doe on one hobby-type deer farm in New Oxford in Adams County. The remaining deer at that facility will be euthanized and tested, said Craig Shultz, veterinarian with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. The farm and two others — one in Lycoming County, another in York — where the deer was known to have been during its lifetime have been quarantined, too.
What happens next with the state’s CWD response plan “all depends on further testing,” Shultz said. “This is all very preliminary,” he said.
What’s likely is that CWD is soon going to wind up in Pennsylvania’s wild deer herd, if it’s not there already, predicted Kip Adams, a certified wildlife biologist and director of education and outreach for the Quality Deer Management Association in Pennsylvania.
That’s been the pattern in a lot of states, Adams said. Missouri, for example, found CWD in a captive deer herd in 2010. In 2012 — after years of sampling wild deer with no evidence of the disease found — CWD showed up in wild deer on property near the infected facility, he said.
“I’m fully expecting them to find more CWD-positive deer here, in the wild, just because that’s what everybody else has experienced. I don’t see why Pennsylvania would be any different,” Adams said.
Just looking for it is likely to be costly at a time when federal funding for CWD surveillance has dried up. In recent years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture dispersed $17 million to $19 million annually to help states look for CWD. Maryland, for example, got $75,000 for CWD monitoring in 2010. In 2011, after the discovery of one CWD-positive deer in the wild, it got $180,000.
This year — with the money available to states slashed to about $750,000 — Maryland isn’t getting anything, said Brian Eyler, deer project leader for the state’s Department of Natural Resources. The department will have to pay for a scaled-back surveillance program, using money that otherwise would have been directed to wildlife management, habitat creation and hunter issues, he said.
“We’ll still be able to do our testing, but instead of it being a Cadillac, it will be a Yugo,” Eyler said.
The presence of CWD often leads to regulation changes, too. In Colorado, where CWD is thought to have contributed to regional declines in mule deer populations approaching 40 percent, deer licenses have been limited. West Virginia has outlawed the feeding and baiting of deer in counties with CWD since its discovery in 2005. Maryland has done the same while also prohibiting the movement of most deer parts out of its CWD zone.
Pennsylvania could conceivably see any and all those regulation changes, Adams said.
The presence of the disease will not mean the end of hunting, though, if history is any guide.
In West Virginia, CWD has caused some people to change their behavior and switch hunting locations, said Paul Johansen, assistant chief of game management for the Division of Natural Resources. But hunters haven’t given up their sport.
“It has not shut hunting down, and that’s a good thing,” he said
Pennsylvania can only hope that’s the case, with a disease no one wanted to see finally within the borders.
In most places, when you get chronic wasting disease, you have it forever.
The prions that carry the disease persist in soils for “a very, very long time,” said Mike Miller, veterinarian for the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife and the nation’s leading CWD expert.
The disease was discovered at the Foothills Wildlife Research Facility in Fort Collins, Colo., in 1967. In 1985, Colorado wildlife officials treated the soil there with chlorine, removed it, applied more chlorine to what was left, then let the facility sit vacant for a year. When they brought more deer in, they contracted CWD.
The one place where CWD was found, then apparently disappeared, was New York. It popped up in five captive deer and two wild ones in 2005.


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