Congressional activity on interstate deer movement
Chronic wasting disease is a serious threat to deer herds in several states, and although no new cases have been discovered in New York since 2010, it is still an issue that requires constant attention. Each year the DEC examines 1,500 to 2,000 deer specimens to monitor for the presence of CWD. This is an ongoing program that samples deer collected from cooperating deer processors and taxidermists.
CWD is a disease that is unique to North America and, as of April 2005, it has been found in wild deer and elk in several western states and in New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Maryland. Research indicates that infected deer and elk transmit the disease through animal to animal contact, and feed or water sources contaminated with bodily excretions. The transmission may be enhanced when deer and elk are congregated around man-made feed and water stations.
Deer farming is big business throughout the United States and it's estimated there are about 10,000 farms nationwide that raise deer specifically for growing large antlers for paid “trophy” hunts behind high fences. Some consider these farms to be potential sources of CWD as well as bovine tuberculosis because many of the farms engage in the interstate transfer of deer and other cervids to these high-fenced hunting operations located in other states.
As a result, Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and five other Democratic members of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus recently requested Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to ban the interstate transportation of captive cervids between deer breeding and high-fenced hunting operations, citing animal as well as human health issues.
The letter to Vilsak referred to the legislator’s concerns about the spread of bovine tuberculosis (TB) and chronic wasting disease (CWD) to livestock and wild deer. It directed attention to a recent investigation by the Indianapolis Star which suggested the interstate trade of captive game farm deer may have contributed to spread of CWD in Indiana. The letter to Secretary Vilsack also made reference to the opposition to high-fence hunting operations by the big game record-keeping organizations Boone & Crockett and Pope & Young clubs.
"Considering USDA's limited resources, it would be prudent for the agency to adopt a precautionary approach, consistent with its regulatory authority, and prohibit interstate transport of captive-bred cervids in order to quell the burgeoning threats the inhumane canned-hunting industry poses to the health of livestock, native wildlife and even humans," the representatives wrote.
To that I say, “Amen.” Not only will a ban on interstate shipments of deer help prevent the spread of CWD, it might even put an end to the seemingly unending list of “hunting” shows that feature so-called “outdoor personalities” harvesting bigger deer than the vast majority of us have ever seen in the wild. Personally, I’m tired of hearing these guys saying they passed up shots at what they call raghorns, cull deer and management bucks – all of which are trapped behind high fences.