Concerned about captive deer operations transmitting diseases to wild herds, the Boone and Crockett Club now officially supports state bans on commercial import and export of deer or elk.
The Club also opposes efforts to relax regulation of captive cervid breeding operations or to remove management authority over such operations from state wildlife agencies.
A full position statement, posted here, was passed at the Club’s December meeting.
The Club’s concerns were reinforced at the recent Whitetail Summit hosted by the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA), the first summit to focus on key issues and challenges facing free-ranging white-tailed deer.
“Of all the presentations, seminars and findings, I was most pleased to see the attention given to the connections between chronic wasting disease (CWD) and the game farming industry. This has been on our radar, and on the radar of QDMA, other conservation groups, state agencies and sportsmen for quite some time,” said Richard Hale, chairman of the Club’s Records Committee.
Hale added, “Congratulations to QDMA on one of the most impressive and well-run summits I’ve had the pleasure of attending and for keeping this issue front and center.”
CWD is a degenerative brain disease that affects elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, and moose. The disease can be transmitted by direct animal-to-animal contact through saliva, feces and urine, and indirectly through environmental contamination. CWD is fatal in deer, elk and moose, but there is no evidence that CWD can be transmitted to humans, according to the CDC and The World Health Organization.
Documented cases of CWD have been found in captive and/or wild deer and elk in 22 states and two Canadian provinces. In some, but not all, cases where the disease has been found in wild populations, the disease is present in captive populations within these regions.
In 2002, the Boone and Crockett Club, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Mule Deer Foundation formed the CWD Alliance. Its purpose was to pool resources, share information and collaborate on ways to positively address the CWD issue. Other organizations have since joined the Alliance, including QDMA and the Wildlife Management Institute, which now administers the Alliance website www.cwd-info.org.
“Evidence strongly suggests that captive animals infected with CWD can serve as the source for the spread of the disease to other captive animals, and between captive animals and wild populations,” said Hale. “To reduce the risk to wild deer populations, several states passed laws prohibiting game farming or live captive deer and elk importation, but now they are fighting efforts to expand captive deer and elk breeding and shooting operations within their jurisdictions. The captive cervid industry is persistent in proposing new legislations to overturn these laws, or transfer the authority of captive deer and elk from state fish and game agencies to their respective departments of agriculture.”
No vaccine or treatment is available for animals infected with CWD and once established in a population, culling or complete depopulation to eradicate CWD has provided only marginal results. In fact, the prevalence of CWD is rising at an alarming rate in some infected wild deer populations. Prevention is the only truly effective technique for managing diseases in free-ranging wildlife populations. Consequently, what can be done is minimizing the spread of CWD by restricting intra- and interstate transportation captive, privately owned wildlife, which frequently occurs in game farming.