Comparing COVID-19 in humans and CWD in deer


It is difficult to not be involved in discussions about COVID-19, a human respiratory disease caused by a coronavirus (no scientific name because viruses are not organisms).

Many deer biologists, hunters, and admirers must have made some comparisons between chronic wasting disease, caused by a mal-shaped prion, but not a virus. Both are particle-caused diseases, technically not living organisms like living bacterial or fungal disease-causing organisms.

If we take anything from the COVID-19 discussions it might be that closeness of hosts, relating to density, have a great deal to do with spread of these diseases. In other words, a vector is usually not involved.

COVID-19 also reminded us that when we go against the gregarious nature of some animals and beasts the general nature is that both animals resist and even resist.  Most people need to associate with someone else and so do deer.

For many hunters, camaraderie, being with others, is avoided by opportunities to do things in person, i.e. purchase a license or register an animal. Some deer hunters miss in-person registration, even in-person license purchase, so much so that they no longer hunt, they say. We also know they miss this connection because many post their hunt results on social media, even if it may lead to being cited for an illegal act.

The take-home tale here is fewer people hunt deer, fewer deer are killed, and deer populations are too dense in some areas and CWD is more likely to be transmitted. We’ve brought some of this on ourselves.

Another obvious outcome is that it takes science to understand these complex diseases and to attempt to manage them.  Without science and science-based discussions, it’s mostly bar talk, which sometimes leads to fables like turkeys eating ruffed grouse eggs.

Categories: CWD, Whitetail Deer, Wisconsin – Jerry Davis

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