CWD fight: PGC pondering banning use of deer urine
Harrisburg — In the face of chronic wasting disease, Pennsylvania game commissioners are considering banning the use of deer urine statewide by hunters.
At their recent work session here, commissioners conducted a wide-ranging discussion on the topic, but reached no consensus.
The use of deer urine, most commonly employed as a buck attractant by bowhunters before and during the rut, has already been prohibited in the state’s two CWD-management areas, around where CWD-positive deer were found.
“Do we know what the economic impact is going to be if we attempt to do this?” asked Commissioner Brian Hoover, of Delaware County. “We have quite a few operations in the state of Pennsylvania producing deer urine.”
Hoover seemed skeptical about whether hunter use of deer urine actually could spread chronic wasting disease.
“Before we make a decision to put somebody out of business, I would like to know if it is even a viable solution in reducing the spread of CWD.”
The commission’s law enforcement director, Rich Palmer, was asked if the agency could even enforce such a statewide prohibition on deer urine use.
“It would be an enforcement challenge, however it would not be impossible to enforce,” he said.
“I think what we would run into is that most of the time, guys who are going to use deer urine in violation of the law would be in possession of the product, and marked and labeled as such, it is really not that difficult to enforce.”
There would be times, Palmer conceded when the urine is on a boot pad or scent pad or sprayed on the ground. In that case, enforcement would be more difficult for officers.
“But if there is a dripper over it, then there is obviously a product there, so it is not unenforceable.”
Palmer noted that conservation officers in the CWD management area in Adams and York counties last fall did not detect any violations in the deer-urine prohibition.
Palmer surveyed national conservation officer chiefs and found that no states have blanket bans on deer urine use by hunters, although two Canadian provinces do.
“Some of the states are doing the same thing that we are, in prohibiting the use of deer urine in CWD management areas,” he said.
Cal DuBrock, director of wildlife management for the commission, pointed out that about 15 percent of Pennsylvania’s deer farmers are involved in producing deer urine for hunter use.
“I know, having been in the business for 32 years, I can tell you what we went through in deer urine. The sales of deer urine to hunters in Pennsylvania has got to be astronomical,” Hoover said.
“I’m trying to figure what we will lose in sales, taxes and a lot of other things to maybe – maybe – stop the spread, possibly, of CWD.”
Commissioner Ralph Martone, of Lawrence County, reacted sharply to that comment.
“But you have to weigh that against what the deer-hunting industry is worth in Pennsylvania,” he said.
But Hoover suggested the result of CWD in Pennsylvania might not be catastrophic, as some have warned.
“What does this mean to us in terms of possible lost deer?” Hoover asked. “Let’s look at states that actually have had CWD – what has been their actual loss?
“What are the numbers – is it thousands, is it hundreds, or is it 30? What are we looking at? I don’t think any of us even know that. What does this mean to us in potental numbers of lost deer?
“Before we jump through all these hoops to try to do things, I would like to know what we’re looking at. What will be the end result of CWD?”
Palmer replied that, unfortunately, he did not think there was anyone who would be able to give the commissioners specific answers to those questions.
For now, prohibiting the use of deer urine in CWD management areas is a prudent course of action, Martone contended.
“I am comfortable with the fact that we have already put the ban into the disease management areas,” he said. “I think we will need a lot more information before we talk seriously about extending the prohibition statewide.”