Isaac Leuthold

February 1, 2019

25 States Took Additional Steps to Fight Chronic Wasting Disease in the Past Year

It’s up to hunters to comply with new regulations on moving deer carcasses and using mineral lures—but it’s worth it to stop the spread of CWD

The Boone & Crockett Club, North America’s oldest wildlife and habitat conservation organization founded by Theodore Roosevelt himself, recently made a bold recommendation to end all human-assisted live transport of deer and elk. Based on the most recent science, B&C said this is absolutely necessary to prevent unknowingly relocating animals infected with chronic wasting disease. Without a practical test for CWD in live animals, the risk is just too great, especially when you consider the rapid spread of the disease in recent years.

CWD has made headline news in the past 12 months—either because the disease has spread or because new regulations are being rolled out to slow the epidemic. We recently counted seven states where chronic wasting disease has deepened its grip since the fall 2018 opener. And we collected news stories from 25 states in the past year that have asked hunters or deer farms to follow new rules meant to control the disease.

Here’s what this means for your hunting.


You May Not Be Able to Bring Deer Carcasses Across State Lines

The recent wave of enhanced regulations leaves only a few states without some kind of official ban on transporting deer carcasses. If moving live deer and elk is too great a risk, many hunters probably recognize that we move just as many dead deer before testing them for CWD.

As a result, 16 states have made recent changes to prevent hunters from bringing home parts of deer harvested in CWD-positive states—or anywhere outside state lines. For a full look at import bans across the country see the map below.

 

For example, in Oklahoma, where hunters contribute $680 million annually to the state’s economy, the Department of Wildlife has proposed new rules dealing with the import, transportation, or possession of deer carcasses and live deer. The state is surrounded by CWD-positive areas in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, and Arkansas.

The Carolinas now have strict guidelines on which parts of deer, moose, and elk can be brought home. Their neighbor Tennessee discovered its first CWD-positive deer in 2018.

And Kentucky recently expanded its ban on deer imports to include all U.S. states—regardless of whether CWD has been detected there. Policies like this often link strongly to two factors: the long “incubation” period of the disease and the general lack of research on all the ways it spreads.

At issue are the “high-risk” parts of the deer, which house the animal’s central nervous system. This is where CWD prions would be highly concentrated. Some states, like Kansas, have opted to educate hunters and urge them not to transport anything but deboned meat, cleaned skulls, finished taxidermy, or tanned hides—but stop short of regulating the practice.

Now it’s on sportsmen and women to step up on our own.

CWD Testing May Not Be Optional

Hunters voluntarily submitting deer samples has been the backbone of many CWD surveillance efforts for years. The disease has become such a concern, though, that some states have implemented mandatory testing in vulnerable or infected areas. In designated areas, hunters are required to submit a high-risk part, like the lymph nodes, for testing by the state wildlife agency.

This is part of what Indiana is preparing to do in the event that CWD spreads from either Illinois or Michigan. Mandatory testing and culling deer in infected areas are key parts of the state’s CWD response plan. But those measures, especially mass culling, comes with a steep price: The economic impact of lost hunting opportunities is a major concern for the state’s $15.7-billion outdoor recreation industry.

With wildlife managers still gathering samples in Tennessee’s new outbreak area, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has expanded its surveillance efforts. More harvested deer are being sampled and tested in counties bordering Mississippi and Tenn, but there have been no positive cases of CWD in Alabama, so far.

Deer Farms Will Be Under Increased Scrutiny

Deer farm restrictions are being considered by more states as the managers of our wild herds work to keep the captive deer industry accountable. Minnesota, New York, Tennessee, and Wisconsin all took up proposals or instituted new restrictions on captive deer farms in 2018.

In Minnesota, legislation has been proposed that would increase the containment requirements for captive deer farms. They are likely looking at neighboring Wisconsin, a stronghold for both the disease and the deer farming industry, and hoping to avoid the same fate.

Expect Broad Changes in the Coming Years

After the year CWD has had, sportsmen and women should expect that this disease will change the way we hunt. But there’s still time to adapt to relatively small concessions—whether it’s mandatory testing, restrictions on certain lures, or extra time in the woods to prepare your harvested animal for safe transport—to help control this epidemic.

The stakes are high, and how we respond could mean the difference between carrying on our deer hunting traditions and watching the decline of our wild deer herds.

 

Top photo by Michigan DNR via flickr

8 Responses to “25 States Took Additional Steps to Fight Chronic Wasting Disease in the Past Year”

  1. David Synatzske

    I commend The Boone and Crockett Club for supporting efforts to manage, thru investigations and controlled movement of deer, efforts to control CWD.
    The tracking and need for research are critical in addressing this disease which has the potential to severely impact the management of deer species but also the entire community of wildlife resources dependent on the proper application of hunting as a means of conservation of habitats and other species dependent upon such.
    Thank you for your voice for Conservation.

  2. Ray Henicke

    I am a an official B&C Measurer, H181. I live in Texas and I am also a Certified Collector for tissue samples of Obex and RLN for CWD testing. I have done perhaps 100 or so collections from both wild deer and pen-raised deer. I know a lot of landowners and deer breeders here in Texas. My son is a certified and degreed wildlife biologist that manages a 10,000 acre hunting ranch in South Texas. I guide on several ranches in different parts of Texas. I would simply say to everyone in the upper levels of policy making at B&C to be very careful and cautious about what is being published and advocated by B&C. I have already called to correct some articles that were published saying that there are no live tests for CWD because there are at least 3 different tissue tests that are. Ring used by veterinarians to test for CWD. I know that Texas has tested thousands of animals already and is still testing at a very high level currently. I want to try and eliminate the disease and/or limit its spread but I also want to be very careful to not spread a doom and gloom picture that it will wipe out all of our deer and elk in the wild when we do not know for sure if that is going to happen.

  3. Luke Garver

    I love that you guys are continually getting out the facts on CWD. I take a little exception to this post, however. It heralds those states which have changed laws regarding CWD, but in doing so makes other states sound like they “haven’t stepped up”. Many states not highlighted are already doing a great deal and some of them are doing a lot more than any of the highlighted states. These posts help the public stay informed on CWD. Positive PR of state wildlife agencies is critical to continued success. Please recognize those states which have been on the forefront of this disease and it’s management since the beginnig and have been a model for states with recent detections to “step up”.

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Steve Kline

January 31, 2019

Science, Not Politics, Should Guide Management of Menhaden

Virginia should do the right thing and let experts guide the future of bunker

Hunting and fishing traditions have deep roots in Virginia—residents have a constitutional right to hunt, and more than 800,000 anglers a year turn out to fish the same waters that George Washington did. But Virginia is also the only state along the Eastern Seaboard that still allows the commercial reduction fishing of Atlantic menhaden, a critical forage fish.

The last holdout of an antiquated fishing industry, reduction fishing of menhaden—or bunker, as you’ll often hear them called on docks around the Chesapeake—involves the harvest of billions of tiny fish that are then reduced to meal and oil for use in a variety of applications, from food for farmed salmon to cosmetics.

There may be many uses for menhaden outside the water, but their real economic and ecological value comes from keeping them in the water.

Atlantic menhaden comprise the very foundation of a diverse ecosystem, which includes some of the most popular gamefish species in the world. From a fisheries management standpoint, it doesn’t get any simpler than this: Fewer menhaden in the water means fewer striped bass, bluefish, cobia, redfish, and weakfish. And that means the potential collapse of a recreational fishing economy worth far more than any reduction fishery.

However, as the sea fog recedes, it becomes clear why Virginia allows this practice to continue.

The commonwealth manages menhaden not through its science-based Virginia Marine Resources Commission, but rather through its state legislature. It begs the question, if the commission is good enough to manage all the other marine fish stocks in the state, both recreational and commercial, why isn’t it being permitted to do its job when it comes to menhaden?

It’s clear to us that Virginia should not allow this reduction fishery to continue while risking the future of the state’s recreational fishing economy. State legislatures are no place to manage species, and if the Marine Resources Commission is good enough to manage striped bass, they ought to be managing what stripers eat, too.

Science should always guide fisheries management decisions to the greatest extent possible. It’s not realistic to take the politics out of the equation completely, but the state of Virginia needs to stop letting politics be the only guiding force in the management of menhaden.

Isaac Leuthold

January 18, 2019

Seven States Where Chronic Wasting Disease Has Spread Since the Fall Opener

With most of the season’s testing done, it’s clear that the rapid spread of CWD continues 

It may be caused by a mutated protein, but the spread of chronic wasting disease is on the verge of “going viral.” After it was first identified in 1967, the always-fatal deer disease remained isolated to a core region between Colorado and Wyoming for decades. But starting in the early 2000s, CWD began popping up across the country.

Now, it’s spreading faster than ever before. We counted 12 U.S. states that have made news since the end of the 2018 fall hunting season for either finding the disease in formerly CWD-free zones or for implementing new solutions to keep the epidemic out. And 25 states total have had confirmed cases—that’s nearly twice as many as ten years ago.

Fortunately, many hunters and wildlife managers are taking CWD challenges seriously, but states need support to tackle this disease without delay. Here are seven places where CWD is gaining ground.

Tennessee

CWD First Detected: December 2018
Recently Spread to: Fayette and Hardeman Counties

CWD has been found for the first time in the Volunteer State. The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission is implementing an emergency action plan after at least 13 cases of chronic wasting disease were discovered in deer as of late December. A special hunting season in three high-risk counties, which border CWD-positive areas discovered recently in Mississippi, is ongoing through the end of January.

Mississippi

CWD First Detected: February 2018
Recently Spread to: Marshall and Pontotoc Counties

Previously confined to the west-central region of the state, CWD surfaced this year in two northern counties of Mississippi. The infected area covers a large portion of the Holly Springs National Forest.

Arkansas

CWD First Detected: Oct 2015
Recently Spread to: Scott County

CWD was first detected in Arkansas three years ago, and it seems that the disease continues to push south. It is likely only a matter of time until neighboring Louisiana is faced with CWD on both its northern border with Arkansas and eastern border with Mississippi.

Map courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey
Missouri

CWD First Detected: Feb 2010
Recently Spread to: Stone County

A yearling buck harvested on opening weekend of firearm season tested positive for CWD in November 2018, marking fresh territory for the disease in the far southwest corner of Missouri. There were 11 confirmed cases this past hunting season, bringing the state’s all-time total up to 86 deer. Now that CWD is scattered throughout the state, wildlife managers face the especially difficult task of containing the spread.

North Dakota

CWD First Detected: Mar 2010
Recently Spread to: Unit 3A1

The Roughrider State saw CWD break new ground in a northwestern hunting unit, after having been confined to the opposite end of North Dakota for many years. Unfortunately, the expansion is not much of a surprise, according to experts. Neighboring Minnesota and Saskatchewan have CWD-positive zones that are too close for comfort. This will not be an isolated event.

Minnesota

CWD First Detected: Aug 2002
Recently Spread to: Houston County

Just one day after Minnesota announced it would step up its CWD response, a deer tested positive outside the known outbreak zone. The buck was harvested 31 miles from the epicenter of the state’s largest CWD zone (for wild deer) and 25 miles from the closest known CWD case.

Nebraska

First Detected: Jul 1999
Recently Spread to: Valley County and Keya Paha County

The Cornhusker State looks destined to join Wyoming as an area blanketed with CWD. Nebraska added multiple counties to the CWD-positive list this year—around half the state has confirmed cases of the disease.

 

Top photo by Ravi Pinisetti via Unsplash

John Gans

by:

posted in: Outdoor Economy

January 11, 2019

Certification is Misleading PR Strategy for Destructive Menhaden Fishery

One company that undermines striped bass populations in the Atlantic is paying to put a blue ribbon on its harmful practices

Reduction fishing is the practice of “reducing” huge numbers of fish into oil and meal to be used in other products—primarily feed for other animals, like pets and farmed salmon. Perhaps it’s not a widely known term because reduction fishing is banned in states up and down the east coast, for decades in some places.

In fact, Virginia is the only state that continues to permit the last holdout of the reduction fishing industry in the Atlantic—a single company called Omega Protein, part of the Canadian-owned Cooke Inc.—to continue to fish for menhaden in this way.

The irony of taking forage fish out of the water that would naturally feed most of our ocean predators and grinding it up to feed farmed fish is not lost on anyone. And you don’t have to be a fisherman to understand that when you suck up the fish at the bottom of the food chain, everything else suffers. So, it should be no surprise that removing large quantities of menhaden has had  a negative impact on striped bass fishing.

Photo by Stephan Lowy.

The menhaden reduction fishing industry accounts for 80 percent of the coastwide catch of these important forage fish. At this level of menhaden harvest, the striped bass population has declined by as much as 30 percent. In fact, the latest stock assessment is likely to show that striped bass are overfished.

Despite perpetuating an antiquated practice that reduces biomass of other fish species in the Atlantic, Omega Protein has applied to have the menhaden fishery certified as “sustainable” by the Marine Stewardship Council, a private international institution. This certification is strictly a pay-to-play arrangement, and it could successfully put a blue ribbon on fishing practices that rob anglers of our sportfishing opportunities. MSC does not even know how many predators rely on menhaden for food to determine if the fishery can legitimately be considered sustainable. Nobody does.

Now, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission—the multi-state agency that sets catch limits on menhaden—is working to get to the bottom of this key question, largely because of the recent outcry from sportsmen and women about the impacts of reduction fishing on sportfish populations.

Since November 2017, the ASMFC has had a scientific team working on a model to account for menhaden’s critical role to sportfish like striped bass and the broader ecosystem. And the truth is that no one can certify that the menhaden fishery is “sustainable” until that question is answered.

But it’s likely that MSC will grant the certification, despite publishing in its own report that the health of the striped bass population is directly linked to menhaden. (They also solicited public feedback as part of their determination, which could be overwhelming.)

Instead of certifying that the Atlantic menhaden fishery as sustainable, MSC should be calling on the industry to substantially reduce its catch, so that predators like striped bass don’t take a hit from the removal of 30 percent of their forage base. Further, Congress should put a stop to reduction fishing in the federal waters of the Atlantic, at least until striped bass have recovered.

In the meantime, we’ll do whatever we can to support the fisheries managers at the ASMFC in their efforts to analyze the actual impacts of reduction fishing of menhaden.

 

Top photo by Stephan Lowy

Here’s How We Welcomed Lawmakers to a New Session of Congress

Our first major ask of the 116th Congress: End the shutdown and put the federal conservation workforce back to work

As freshmen lawmakers join seasoned veterans on Capitol Hill and the partial government shutdown becomes the longest in history, the TRCP is welcoming decision-makers to Washington with a bold message: Here’s what hunters and anglers need from you right now.

These are the top priorities we outlined for Congress in a letter to every office this week:

End the partial government shutdown. This must be the first priority of the 116th Congress. The ongoing government shutdown is having an outsized impact on our nation’s land management agencies and natural resources, as basic public access has been curtailed, and wildlife habitat restoration projects grind to a halt. There is no more urgent conservation issue than putting the people of the Department of the Interior, Agriculture, and Environmental Protection Agency back to work on behalf of the American people, and our fish and wildlife resources.

Recommit to public lands. The waning days of the 115th Congress saw time run out on a comprehensive public lands package that included reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and numerous sportsmen’s priorities. The 116th Congress should capitalize on this momentum by taking early action on that bipartisan and bicameral agreement.

Rebuild our nature-based infrastructure. Natural systems—like coastal barrier islands, wetlands, and intact flood plains—provide some of the most effective and durable solutions to reducing the impacts of large storm events and protecting public safety, natural resources, and homes and businesses. As Congress looks to invest in our national infrastructure, the value of our natural infrastructure should be reflected in new policy and funding.

Don’t ignore climate change. Climate change is altering migration patterns and mating seasons, stressing native species, and lengthening wildfire seasons. Sportsmen and women are often on the front lines to view these kinds of changes firsthand, and we recognize that climate challenges profoundly threaten the future of our traditions and the outdoor economy. Hunters and anglers look forward to being part of the conversation on addressing the issue of climate change and creating a solutions-based approach to managing carbon emissions.

Guard against significant cuts to conservation funding. Fiscal Year 2020 signals the end of the bipartisan budget agreement of 2018 and the potential return of budget sequestration, which will initiate across-the-board cuts to federal resource conservation and land management budgets. Congress must take action to avoid the return of drastic funding cuts for conservation programs that, in many cases, are already underfunded.

In the coming weeks and days, we will continue this conversation with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and develop ways we can partner to meet the needs of America’s hunters, anglers, and unique natural resources.

And we’ll be in touch with sportsmen and women, like you, when there are opportunities to apply pressure and hold policymakers accountable.

 

Photo by Whitney Potter

HOW YOU CAN HELP

WHAT WILL FEWER HUNTERS MEAN FOR CONSERVATION?

The precipitous drop in hunter participation should be a call to action for all sportsmen and women, because it will have a significant ripple effect on key conservation funding models.

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