American Cervid Alliance

Unity Needed to Battle Deer Disease

February 1, 2017

Victoria Advocate

By Travis Lowe - Guest Column
 July 28, 2016 at 8:06 p.m.

More and more people across Texas are hearing about chronic wasting disease. It's a prion disease that impacts members of the deer family, which includes elk and moose. Some states found it years ago and others just recently.

However, the response to finding chronic wasting disease, particularly by the state wildlife agencies, has been troubling and could have lasting harmful impacts on the mind of the public. We all agree we need to protect the state's animals from chronic wasting disease, but we cannot cut off our nose to spite our face.

For example, when Texas found chronic wasting disease in a farmed whitetail herd last year, the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife proposed unprecedented rules on already highly regulated private deer ranches. The Missouri Department of Conservation did the exact same thing two years ago. These moves didn't make much logical sense since there are already state and federal regulations on deer farms, including a 14-year-old certification program designed to mitigate chronic wasting disease appearing on a deer farm.

But these agencies justify the new onerous rules by speculating the disease will lead to the plight of the state's wild deer population. In reality, there is no proof of that in any state or place around the world. Arkansas, which found Chronic Wasting Disease for the first time earlier this year, has detected over ninety cases of chronic wasting disease in wild deer and elk in just one area of the state. Experts speculate the disease has been in the state for over a decade. Yet, the Arkansas wild deer herd has not suffered and, until this February, Arkansas insisted it did not have the disease at all. (Clearly that was wrong.)

On top of this, political actors have tried to use chronic wasting disease to divide the community. In Texas, representatives of "low-fence" hunting ranches have used chronic wasting disease as a pretext to attack "high-fence" hunting ranches that they compete with. Similar shenanigans have gone on in other states' legislatures.

The political and PR smear tactics employed when chronic wasting disease is found are counterproductive.

For one, they are going to implant fear in the minds of the public that hunt and eat wild deer, despite the fact that health authorities say there is no evidence of chronic wasting disease ever affecting people. This will lead to declines in hunting, permit sales and devaluation of hunting land itself. Less fees, less funding for state wildlife agencies.

Legal battles also cost the state - that is, taxpayers - as well as private deer farms and hunting ranches. States like Texas and Missouri responding this way are now being sued by private ranches for violation of private property rights with regulations that are not based on sound science. For the same reason, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources lost a legal case for their response to deer farmers on chronic wasting disease in 2014. The judge said the department response was "irrational, illogical and wholly unjustifiable."

States should be working with other states and private deer and elk ranches to combat the disease, not turn on each other. After all, private deer and elk ranchers have spent millions of dollars investing in a live-animal test for chronic wasting disease and a vaccine. They don't want chronic wasting disease around any more than anyone else.

Hunters and the public need to remember chronic wasting disease has not devastated any wild herds, and the disease is not harmful to humans or other livestock. For the sake of the future, let's remember we are on the same side.

Travis Lowe is executive director of the North American Elk Breeders Association and is a Dallas/Fort Worth native. He may be emailed at

http://C:\Users\travisl\Desktop\Unity needed to battle deer disease - Victoria Advocate - Victoria, TX.mht


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