Chronic wasting disease is an untreatable and fatal brain and nervous system disease found in deer, elk, and moose and it’s of grave concern for biologists around the country. Fortunately, there have been no cases discovered in New York since 2005. However, that’s not the case with 24 other states, including Pennsylvania, where CWD has been discovered in both captive and free-ranging deer in several southcentral counties. Following the detection of CWD in the Keystone State, an executive order was issued by the Game Commission to establish Disease Management Areas (DMAs) where the use or possession of cervid urine-based attractants has been banned. In addition, the removal of high-risk of cervid body parts and the feeding of wild, free-ranging deer are prohibited to prevent the further spread of the disease.
Scientists tell us CWD is caused by a mis-shapen or mutated protein called a prion that causes holes in an animal’s brain tissue and other areas of its nervous system, and there seems to be no cure. Lately, a researcher at Louisiana State University has been claiming he has found a cure for CWD in deer and other cervids.
Dr. Frank Bastian is a disease researcher formerly at LSU and he claims he is within a year or two of finding a cure for CWD and that other scientists, including wildlife biologists, are simply wrong in their belief the disease is caused by a prion. However, he’s been making this claim for a cure for the past 15 years and so far has produced nothing. Bastian claims CWD is not caused by a prion as almost all other scientists believe, but rather by a bacterium. However, his theory is being greeted with utmost skepticism by other researchers in this field.
Regardless of whom you believe, game agencies are taking steps to stop or at least slow down the spread of CWD. Pennsylvania and Minnesota are now prohibiting the feeding of deer or other cervids and have implemented a ban of the use of urine-based scents within CWD management zones. The reason for the ban is that the prions that cause the disease can be spread from the animal’s saliva and urine and can remain in the soil for years. In fact, they can even be taken up by plants that are then consumed by deer. I
In an effort to slow the spread of CWD, Pennsylvania is also banning the feeding of wild, free-ranging cervids, and this is not sitting well with some Pennsylvania residents. Feeding cervids is unlawful because any concentration of deer or elk assists in the spread of this disease. Increased testing continues in these areas where CWD has been found, mainly in the southcentral part of the state, to determine the distribution of the disease. Newly confirmed cases alter the boundaries of DMAs as the Game Commission continues to manage the disease and minimize its effect on free-ranging cervids.
As was the case last hunting season, New York hunters cannot bring a deer they kill in Pennsylvania into New York whole. If they kill a deer in the Keystone State they may safely transport the following parts: meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached; cleaned hides without the head; skull plates and/or antlers cleaned of all brain tissue; upper canine teeth without soft tissue; or finished taxidermy mounts. In short, no hunter may bring back a deer they kill across the state line, even if it’s for processing, unless the brain and spinal column have been removed. A deer killed in New York may not be brought into Pennsylvania unless the brain and spinal column have been removed.
Here in New York, CWD has not been found since 2005, and the DEC monitors the situation on a yearly basis. Feeding of deer and moose is currently prohibited, but the use of urine-based scents for hunting is not. Managing the spread of CWD is a serious situation and hunters can assist the state game agencies by following the rules about transporting animals they kill across state lines for processing.
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