“I think we risk becoming the best informed society that has ever died of ignorance.” — Ruben Blades

I have told you this before. One of the items in the job description of your lowly outdoor correspondent (as I see it) is to keep you informed. That means about everything, good and bad.

No doubt it is much easier to chat with you and paint a rosy picture. I mean, I would much rather report to you about a good hunting trip, a new shotgun I just got my hands on or a big ol’ buck that one of my buddies hauled in for me to see.

But life, boys and girls, as most of you know, is not always like that.

So class, sit up straight and pay attention, here is your latest update on that insidious little demon that plagues deer and deer hunters, Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).

As most of you know by now CWD is an infectious disease that affects members of the deer family, Cervids. Whitetail deer, mule deer, moose, elk, and caribou are all susceptible to this always fatal disease.

Wildlife biologists tell us that CWD is not spread from bacteria or a virus but by a tough little microscopic varmint called a prion. Prions are infectious, single proteins that cause the sponge-like degeneration of the brain in infected animals.

Scientists now think that prions are very durable and can withstand long periods of time and many decontamination methods. Prions are able to “bind” or attach to different types of soil as well as plants, and CWD may spread in this way as well as animal to animal contact.

CWD was first recognized in captive mule deer at a research facility at Fort Collins, Colorado, in 1967. Since then there is a long list of dates and locations of where and when the disease has been found in deer and elk populations around the country.

Currently there are at least 24 states and two Canadian provinces which are reporting the presence of CWD. Interestingly, the Norwegian Veterinary Institute has diagnosed CWD in a free-ranging reindeer from the Nordfjella population in Southern Norway.

So let’s look at some of the items of interest and contention in the CWD issue. This way when the argument starts at the barber shop, you guys can stay on track. (Just trying to help.)

CWD has been here forever, we are just now learning about it. Pick your side on this and have at it. There seems to be scientists on both sides of the aisle on this one.

From what I am reading the biologists in Michigan seem to think that CWD was recently brought into their state, based on extensive testing prior to the disease showing up. I am not sure on this, and in no way present myself as any kind of expert on CWD issues.

CWD originates and is brought into an area from captive deer and elk. This is probably the most contentious area in the whole CWD debate. Many wildlife biologists and animal scientists are firm on this, they believe keeping deer and other Cervids in enclosures increases the risk of CWD. Those in the deer farm industry say this is not so.

For a layman like me this is a frustrating area of this dispute as there does not seem to be any clear evidence either way. This to me is the case in much of the CWD arena, there is still a whole lot that we do not know about this disease.

CWD could wipe out a deer herd in a given area. From what I understand scientists do not necessarily think CWD will wipe out entire deer herds. Recent studies show that certain areas are experiencing a sharp decrease in the total number of deer but the biologists do not think CWD will affect all of the deer in that area.

Using deer urine and other gland-based scents increases the risk of spreading CWD into other areas. This may be hottest topic on CWD in the hunting industry world. Many state wildlife biologists have taken a firm stand and said that the risk is too high to allow the use of natural deer urine by hunters.

Believe it or not we have a multi-million dollar based industry in the U.S. based on deer urine. So as you may imagine those in the deer urine and scent world take a different stand than of the biologists.

Many hunters, especially bow hunters, have used deer urine for years to get that buck into range.

Fear that using deer urine in the field will spread CWD has led several states to ban the use of natural deer urine.

Virginia is the most recent of these and the list includes Alaska, Arizona, and Vermont along with Canadian provinces Nova Scotia and Ontario.

Pennsylvania prohibits the use of deer urine in three Disease Management Areas.

I personally believe that several other states will follow along on this and ban the use of natural deer urine as well.

Take heart, brothers in camo, I don’t think anyone is saying that CWD is the end of the world for deer hunting. Stay informed and in contact with your state’s DNR or Game Commission about this issue.

Just like that little event that will happen on November 8, staying informed is your best weapon to make good decisions.


Larry Case is the outdoors columnist for the Daily Telegraph. Contact him at larryocase3 @ gmail.com.