Taxidermy-rehab link is likely CWD source

By Steve
Piatt
Editor

Westmoreland, N.Y. – A state Department of Agriculture &
Markets officials says it’s likely Chronic Wasting Disease made its
way into New York via infected taxidermy materials.

Those materials, from the shop of John Palmer of Westmoreland,
probably exposed fawns that were being rehabilitated and were
housed in the same area where the taxidermy was being done, said
Dr. John Huntley, director of animal industry for the state Ag
& Markets.

“Orphaned fawns were raised in the same room where taxidermy
specimens were kept,” Huntley said at a May 12 meeting on the
status of the CWD situation in Oneida and Madison counties. “Some
of them were shunted to the captive pens, some to the wild.”

Because the disease, always fatal to deer and elk, progresses so
slowly, Huntley said a review of Palmer’s records indicates that
some of the fawns may have been infected with CWD in 2000-01, and
perhaps earlier.

“It should come as no surprise to anyone if we find additional
deer (with CWD) in the wild,” Huntley told a crowd of about 200 in
the Vernon-Verona-Sherrill High School auditorium.

Huntley’s theory as to how CWD got its start in New York, which
became the first state in the Northeast to record a case of the
disease, essentially deflects at least some of the attention away
from the deer-farming industry, which has faced widespread
criticism following DEC’s announcement that five cases were
recorded in captive deer herds.

Four of those came at the Palmer operation, which was a unique
combination of deer farming, taxidermy and wildlife rehabilitation.
While all three were allowed by law to operate on the same site,
new emergency regulations imposed by DEC will now prohibit that
from occurring.

Those regulations address the situation which may have led to
CWD’s entry in the state via the Palmer property.

Under the new regulations, taxidermists will be prohibited from
allowing live cervids (deer and elk) to come in contact with any
materials that may contain the infectious agent that causes
CWD.

In addition, the new guidelines will prohibit deer farmers and
taxidermists from possessing live, wild whitetails. And wildlife
rehabilitators will not be allowed to possess deer within the CWD
containment area, which includes a wide area of Oneida County and a
portion of Madison County as well.

DEC Director of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources Gerald
Barnhart said previously that officials didn’t “hypothesize or ever
realize that this chain of events could and would happen,”
referring to Palmer’s scenario.

Palmer, whom DEC officials said has been cooperative through the
investigation, has not been charged with any violations.

He told state officials that he accepted taxidermy specimens
from several states and Canadian provinces, including areas where
CWD is known to exist such as Kansas, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado
and Saskatchewan.

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