A former Pennsylvania Game Commission veterinarian impacts CWD fight

One aspect of our state’s battle against the spread of chronic wasting disease that has never made sense to me is that we wait until after deer in an area are found to be infected with the disease before we ban hunters from using deer-urine based scents, lures and attractants there. That seems stupid to me.

Until an outbreak is discovered – even though scientists suspect that urine from CWD-infected deer have played a role in spreading the disease from Colorado east to Pennsylvania and beyond over the last 50 years – hunters are free to  sprinkle and dump deer urine orginating from who knows where, wherever they please.

Actually, some states and Canadian provinces, such as Alaska, Ontario and Nova Scotia, have banned the use of deer urine in an effort to keep chronic wasting disease outside of their boundaries. Even though it remains unclear if hunters using deer urine have distributed the prions that cause the always-fatal-to-deer-elk-and-moose disease – it seems likely, and they’re taking no chances.

Former Pennsylvania Game Commission wildlife veterinarian Walt Cottrell first urged game commissioners here to ban the use of deer urine by hunters in 2009 – before CWD showed up in the Keystone State. But commissioners never really considered his request, apparently believing such a ban was too controversial.

Even today, with chronic wasting disease infecting free-ranging deer in our state, some are cynical about the threat posed by the use of deer urine. Current commissioner Brian Hoover, of Delaware County, in particular, has repeatedly made it clear that he is skeptical that banning the use of deer urine by hunters would be worth the economic disruption it would cause.

This spring it became clear that Dr. Cottrell succeeded in persuading another state’s wildlife officials about the risk of deer urine use, even though he failed with Pennsylvania leaders.

In late April news reached us that the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board had voted to ban the possession and use by hunters of natural lures based on deer urine or other fluids,
beginning in 2016. But what caught our eye in the release was a reference to wildlife veterinarian Walter Cottrell.

“Dr. Cottrell has worked closely with the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department as a contract wildlife veterinarian since his retirement as wildlife veterinarian for Pennsylvania,” the release stated. “He presented on the science of CWD to the Fish and Wildlife Board at its April 22 meeting.”

Cottrell told Vermont officials that deer urine lures are not tested for CWD, nor is it possible to track and recall bottles of lure that have been sold from a facility that later tests positive for the disease.

Captive deer populations have been implicated in the spread of CWD in several states, Cottrell noted. While many captive deer facilities claim that their facilities are '”CWD-free,” urine lures from different sources are commonly mixed, so hunters are unable to tell the origin of their product.

The first case of CWD in Pennsylvania was recorded in a captive deer facility that was considered CWD-free and was selling deer urine lures online, Cottrell pointed out,

Therefore, implementing strong preventative measures is the only tool available to combat this disease, Cottrell said, adding that banning natural deer urine lures is one of the few things wildlife managers can do to prevent the spread of CWD into Vermont, or anywhere else.

But it won’t happen anytime soon in Pennsylvania.


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Categories: Bloggers on Hunting, CWD, Hunting News, PenBlogs, Pennsylvania – Jeff Mulhollem, Whitetail Deer

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