PGC frets over use of deer farm urine

Harrisburg — Peruse any outdoor catalog and you’ll find all kinds of tools and toys meant to help hunters bag deer.

One of those could conceivably be illegal soon.

Pennsylvania Game Commission officials are wrestling with the idea of banning the use of deer urine-based attractants out of fear that they could contribute to the spread of chronic wasting disease.

Several years ago, Pennsylvania Game Commission veterinarian Walt Cottrell told members of the agency’s board that the wisdom of allowing urine to be used – in a world where the spread of chronic wasting disease was even then beginning to take off – was something they might want to reconsider.

The board didn’t act on that idea then.

But, with CWD having been discovered within the state’s borders this year, it is being talked about again. And this time it might get more traction.

The issue came up at the commission’s most recent work session, when it was revealed that urine produced at the very Adams County farm where wasting disease was found had been on store shelves.

Commission officials found out about it just by “happenstance,” said Cal DuBrock, director of the commission’s Bureau of Wildlife Management. Stores with the product voluntarily agreed to take it out of circulation, he said.

But about 15 percent of deer farmers – there are about 1,100 licensed in the state – collect and sell urine, DuBrock said. Some market it directly, while others sell it to bigger operations, which combine it with other products before taking it to market.

Farms under quarantine can’t move deer urine off their properties, DuBrock said. But they could conceivably move a lot of it in the time between when it was produced and when any quarantine is established, he said.

That’s what happened in the case with the Adams County farm, he noted.

That’s got commissioners pondering what to do.

“I think the discussion has to be there right now with what we do and where we go,” said Commissioner Jay Delaney, of Luzerne County. “I’d rather be proactive than reactive.”

Several Canadian provinces have already banned the use of deer urine in hunting. Following suit here will come with challenges. It’s sure to be “an economic issue” in the minds of some, said Commissioner Brian Hoover, of Philadelphia.

There’s also the issue of whether any regulation change can be effective.

“The true challenge of this is always enforcement,” said commission Executive Director Carl Roe. “Do you have a law on the books that you can enforce?”

Those are questions that the board is apparently going to try to answer. But some believe the time for seeking solutions is here.

“We’re concerned about deer spreading CWD prions at the same time we’re allowing hunters to take urine and spread prions all over the landscape,” DuBrock said.

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