CWD regs tightened; focus on live imports

Albany — An effort to keep Chronic Wasting Disease from making a return to the New York is now focusing on the import of CWD-susceptible animals into the state.

The state Department of Agriculture and Markets and the DEC last month announced emergency regulations prohibit the import of deer, elk and moose into New York, a move designed to halt the movement of those animals between shooting preserves and other captive facilities.

The joint Ag & Markets and DEC news release said the move will protect the state’s wild whitetail population and also “is critical to supporting the hundreds of thousands of sportsmen and women whose recreational activities contribute some $780 million in economic impact statewide.”

Chronic Wasting Disease was discovered in 2005 in both wild and captive deer in central New York, but has not been seen since despite the testing of thousands of deer.

“These emergency measures will help mitigate the risk of CWD taking a firm hold here in New York State,” said acting Agriculture Commissioner James B. Bays said. “I’m a hunter and an avid outdoorsman, and keeping New York’s wild and captive deer herds healthy will help protect multi-million dollar industries that create jobs and provide recreational opportunities for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. From our agency’s perspective, the most important thing that we can do is limit the exposure of deer to CWD.  That’s exactly what these regulations will do.”

The emergency regulations provide a ban on imports of specific species between Nov. 16, 2013 and Aug. 1, 2018.  Those species include Rocky Mountain elk, red deer, mule deer, black-tailed deer, white-tailed deer, sika deer, and moose.

Currently, 21 states, including New York, prohibit the importation of live deer.

DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said the regulations are necessary to keep CWD from returning to New York.

“It is imperative that we remain vigilant and prevent Chronic Wasting Disease from entering the state,” he said. “These regulations will bolster existing protections already in place in New York and help to maintain a vibrant population of our most sought after game species. This show of stewardship help will ensure that sportsmen and sportswomen continue to have great deer hunting opportunities throughout the state.”

The chief concern among state officials is that CWD is long-lived once it enters the soil and the time between infection and visible symptoms of the fatal neurological disease can be two years or longer. Soil contaminated with CWD prions cannot be decontaminated and can remain as a source of CWD exposure to wild deer for years. And the only means of diagnosing CWD is testing a dead deer, elk or moose.

The primary tool for preventing spread of CWD is the USDA herd certification program, which requires a five-year certification process involving surveillance testing and maintenance of herd inventories. 

“While the program has helped slow the spread of CWD, it cannot guarantee that certified herds will remain CWD-free. CWD has appeared in four new states (Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri) since 2010; all four states were participating in the herd certification program. 

The source of the most recent detection of CWD in both captive and wild deer in Pennsylvania remains unknown a year after the initial detection, state officials said. “Farms in other states purchased animals from the original infected herd in Pennsylvania; some escaped and some remain unaccounted for,” the news release said. “Absent these regulations, states with potentially infected deer populations would be allowed to export deer to New York.”

“If we continue to allow imports, we could receive CWD-exposed deer or elk that originated in one state and subsequently passed through a facility in a third state,” state veterinarian Dr. David Smith said. “That’s not a risk we’re willing to take here in New York.  CWD is extremely difficult to detect and control and once present, the costs to the wild deer population, captive deer owners, and the entire state are high.”

According to the latest data, there are 433 facilities across New York state that currently hold captive deer. Of those facilities, 25 imported a total of 400 CWD-susceptible deer from Jan. 1, 2011 through March 29, 2013. 

New York will still permit the importation of deer semen for artificial insemination. Zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums will also be allowed to still import CWD-susceptible species.

New York State Conservation Council President Chuck Parker said that organization supports the regulations.

“Chronic Wasting Disease, if it was to be found in our wild deer population, would create a serious environmental, recreational, and economic impact in New York,” he said.

A public hearing on the emergency regulations will be held at noon on Dec. 19 at the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets offices, located at 10B Airline Drive in Albany.

Categories: Breaking News, CWD, Hunting News, Whitetail Deer

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