Q&A: How to Maximize Your Harvest While Minimizing CWD Risk
Deboning your deer in the field helps to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease, but can you safely use the bones?
A few years ago, the TRCP partnered with Steven Rinella and Janis Putelis at MeatEater to educate deer hunters on an important step they can take to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease—deboning your deer in the field. We recently got a great question from a hunter who wants to do the right thing and prevent bringing home the soft tissues that may contain CWD, but also wants to maximize their harvest. So, we called on a highly respected wildlife disease specialist to provide an answer.
Tune into the video or read on below for more.
Question: If you want to use them yourself and are not transporting the animal out of state, is it still safe and legal to use the bones to make tools and bone broth? I don’t like the idea of wasting so much of the carcass.
Wildlife disease ecologist and New York deer hunter Krysten Schuler answers:
As a hunter, I understand why you’d want to get the most you can out of your harvest. Many states do not allow hunters to bring whole deer carcasses home from another state. They typically ask that the harvest is deboned, because CWD prions exist in a variety of tissues, so it’s easiest just to have hunters bring back edible or trophy portions that most people want to keep and leave the rest behind. Disposing of these parts so they end up in a landfill, instead of on the landscape, is really the best method for hunters to avoid creating a new CWD hotspot in the woods.
Good to know: A CWD prion (pronounced pree-on) is a malformed protein—it is not alive, like bacteria or fungi, and it’s near-impossible to eradicate.
There was a lot of debate among wildlife professionals about whether quartering would be sufficient vs deboning. The concern was that the larger bones, which you’d likely use for stock or making tools, would be thrown out on the landscape if a full deboning was required. In the end, it was a judgement call to minimize the risk and also help with language clarity, as people may have different ideas about which bones could be retained while quartering.
The bottom line: If you’re not moving your harvest from one hunting zone to another, it is perfectly legal to use the bones for stock. But if you hunt in a CWD zone, I’d get my deer tested first—the CDC recommends that no one knowingly consume a CWD-positive animal. This goes for all parts. Cooking or boiling won’t “kill” CWD prions.
The legislative and policy solutions we’re pursuing to improve habitat and your hunting and fishing opportunities
Following a 2021 that was a rollercoaster in so many ways, the year ahead provides hunters, anglers, and the conservation community with significant opportunity. Lawmakers deep in re-election cycles know that habitat, access, and conservation funding issues are things that most Americans can agree on and are eager to bring home legislative wins to their voters.
Working alongside our partners, here’s what we want to get done this year.
Passed in late 2021, the $1.2-trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provides significant federal investment in programs benefiting fish and wildlife on public and private lands, including a first-of-its-kind five-year wildlife crossings grant program. The TRCP will closely follow the implementation of this and other programs to ensure that dollars are both benefiting fish and wildlife and enhancing outdoor recreation opportunities.
Building Climate Resilience
Efforts to address our changing climate continue to become less polarizing in Congress. There is significant interest among lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in prioritizing carbon sequestration and nature-based solutions that mitigate the impacts of extreme weather events on vulnerable rural communities. Whether in the proposed Build Back Better package, other potential climate legislation, or the 2023 Farm Bill, the conservation community will have an active voice in the discussion.
Passage of the Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act
In late 2021, the Biden Administration once again halted the proposed Pebble Mine in southwest Alaska. While this was welcome news, more work is needed to federally protect the world’s most prolific sockeye salmon fishery in statute. The TRCP is working with lawmakers and state and national partners in developing legislation to do just that.
Passage of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act
RAWA would provide state wildlife agencies with nearly $1.4 billion annually to implement state wildlife action plans, allowing for more proactive conservation of wildlife and associated habitat to avoid potential endangered species listings. Introduced by Representative Dingell of Michigan and Senator Heinrich of New Mexico, the legislation has bipartisan support in both chambers and would be a generational investment in wildlife conservation.
Passage of the Modernizing Access to Public Land Act
The MAPLand Act, championed by Senator Risch of Idaho and Representative Moore of Utah, would require that maps and easement records held by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are digitized and publicized for the benefit of all Americans. Doing so would bring recordkeeping into the 21st century and provide hunters and anglers with much greater certainty in planning outings on our public lands.
Introduction of the North American Grasslands Conservation Act
In the last half-century, the intense conversion of grasslands has precipitated a steep decline in associated bird populations. The TRCP and several partners have worked for the past year on developing an innovative grant program for grass and rangeland conservation that works with ranchers and landowners to improve ecosystem health and ensure that their acreage remains productive and healthy habitat for years to come. Our groups have worked closely with Senator Wyden in developing the legislation and are looking forward to bringing the bill before the House and Senate.
Improving the State of Gulf Menhaden
Largescale industrial menhaden fishing in the Gulf accounts for more than one billion pounds of this forage fish harvested each year, making it Louisiana’s largest fishery. Pogie boats often operate near shore, netting thousands of other fish species, including red drum and speckled trout. Anglers have fought to restrict these operations in the surf zone but continue to face opposition from menhaden processors citing economic impacts. In 2022, the TRCP will continue to work with partners and scientists who study the bycatch of such operations and pursue legislation to further reduce the impact of the industrial menhaden fishery on sportfish in the Gulf, with a particular focus on protecting beaches and other shallow-water habitat.
Using the Power of Habitat to Boost Water Resources
Western watersheds, such as the Colorado River and Rio Grande, face increasing pressure from wildfire and drought. Natural infrastructure approaches—such as the protection and restoration of headwater wetlands and riparian areas—have been shown to effectively reduce natural hazard risks while benefiting water users and watersheds. In 2022, TRCP is working to prioritize the implementation of natural infrastructure and nature-based solutions to address Western water challenges in various federal and state policy initiatives, with a focus on the 2023 Farm Bill and this year’s Water Resources Development Act. We’ll also be pushing for the latter legislation to improve Everglades restoration funding and build on the successful construction of projects to help restore natural waterflows.
Conserving Migration Corridors
Beyond the wildlife crossing pilot program included in recently passed legislation, additional solutions are needed to conserve big game migration corridors across the country. The TRCP and partner groups are continuing to work with state and federal land managers to increase investments in research and corridor mapping, improve interagency coordination, and conserve corridors on public land.
For more information, and to take action in support of these critical conservation priorities in the year ahead, visit the TRCP Action Center.
10 Conservation Achievements We’re Proud of in 2021
Your support helped to make these organizational and legislative successes possible
Setting the Agenda
In early 2021, the TRCP staff clearly communicated top hunter and angler priorities to the incoming Biden-Harris Administration and members of the 117th Congress. Our top ten must-do list for the administration and top five priorities for Congress were among our most popular blog posts of the year, making it clear that American hunters and anglers are engaged in these policy discussions—and we let decision-makers know that sportsmen and sportswomen are paying attention. At the 100-day mark, we’d seen progress on many, but not all, of our top priorities, and conservation has advanced even further in the remainder of the year. Read on for details.
Strengthening a Popular Farm Bill Conservation Program
Helping to Secure Conservation’s Role in “30 by 30”
Almost immediately after the inauguration, the news of the administration’s support for a global initiative to conserve 30 percent of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030 had left some landowners, politicians, industry executives, and even conservation groups fearful about what exactly this would mean. Fortunately, the voices of sportsmen and sportswomen—including those behind huntfish3030.com—were heard, and the White House’s 10-year “America the Beautiful” initiative includes key TRCP priorities, like expanding habitat conservation, increasing outdoor recreation access, incentivizing the voluntary conservation of private land, and creating jobs through conservation. Here’s what you need to know about 30 by 30.
Many key priorities of the TRCP and our partners are also included in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was signed by President Biden in November. We successfully pushed for a revolutionary program to build more wildlife-friendly highway crossings and once-in-a-generation investments in stream connectivity, forest health, coastal and estuarine habitat conservation, water quality, and water conservation projects across the West.
Unlocking Public Land Access
In 2021, lawmakers reintroduced and advanced the TRCP-led MAPLand Act, which would require public land agencies to digitize their paper maps and access information. Once accomplished, this would help you identify more inroads to public hunting and fishing areas using smartphone apps and GPS devices. After clearing committees in both chambers, the legislation is poised for floor votes that could send it to President Biden’s desk next year.
Boosting Efforts to Study and Stop the Spread of CWD
Highlighting Individuals Who Are Shaping Conservation’s Future
Part of the fun of what we do is making you aware of the hunters and anglers out there who help to power conservation without asking for any acclaim. This is just a small window into the community that we feel lucky to be a part of. If you need some uplifting reading this holiday season, check out our Q&As with Durrell Smith, Kelsey Johnson, Gregg Flores, and Rachel Smiley. Be inspired by what Clint Bentley was able to accomplish for Nevada’s bighorn sheep populations, just by speaking up. Let Austin Snow take you along on his hunt with Steven Rinella and Janis Putelis of MeatEater. Or take just a few minutes to watch Suzy Weiser, Charles Garcia, and Geo Romero explain why conservation in the Colorado River Basin is personal for them.
That wraps up our top ten for the year. Thanks for following along and supporting our work to create conservation success across the country. It wouldn’t be possible without you. Want to do even more for habitat, access, and the outdoor recreation economy? Donate to the TRCP before December 31, and SITKA will match some or all of your gift. Learn more here.
Email subscribers: The December 17th Roosevelt Report is the last of the year, and we’ll be back on January 7, 2022. Want to get on the list for the next one? Subscribe here.
“This swift bipartisan passage of the Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act reflects the incredible need for resources to study and stop the spread of the disease on behalf of our wild deer herds and hunting opportunities,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “This legislation has the federal government stepping up its responsibility for addressing CWD, giving state agency staff more support, focusing the scope of much-needed research, and educating the full spectrum of stakeholders—from hunters to the captive cervid industry—so that we are all accountable for advancing CWD solutions.”
The legislation calls for an annual $70-million investment through fiscal year 2028 on an even split of CWD management and research priorities. It also includes authorization for federal, state, and Tribal agencies to develop educational materials to inform the public on CWD and directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture to review its Herd Certification Program, which accredits captive operations as “low-risk” for CWD contamination but has proven inadequate to stem the spread of the disease.
$35 million per year for research would focus on:
Methods to effectively detect CWD in live and harvested deer and the surrounding environment
Best practices for reducing CWD occurrence through sustainable harvest of deer and other cervids
Factors contributing to spread of the disease locally, such as animal movement and scavenging
$35 million per year for management, including surveillance and testing, would prioritize:
Areas with the highest incidence of CWD
Areas responding to new outbreaks of CWD
Areas without CWD that show the greatest risk of CWD emerging
Jurisdictions demonstrating the greatest financial commitment to managing, monitoring, surveying, and researching CWD
Efforts to develop comprehensive policies and programs focused on CWD management
As a next step, the TRCP and its partners are working with lawmakers to secure the introduction of a companion bill in the Senate.
New Legislation Introduced to Study and Help Stop the Spread of CWD
The Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act provides a bipartisan avenue for hunters, wildlife managers, and captive industry stakeholders to address the growing threat posed by the disease
The TRCP applauds the Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act, which is the result of several months of discussion and debate among wildlife partners and captive industry stakeholders. The legislation would expand the federal government’s role in the fight to address CWD in four key ways:
By authorizing $35 million annually for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to partner with state wildlife and agriculture agencies for CWD management activities. Learn how states use these funds here.
By authorizing another $35 million annually for CWD research. Specifically, research grants will focus on improved testing techniques, long-term suppression strategies, environmental transmission factors, and more.
By directing the USDA to solicit feedback for improvements to the Herd Certification Program, which accredits captive operations as “low-risk” for CWD contamination.
By requiring the USDA to develop, maintain, and publicize educational materials on CWD best practices and precautions based on the best-available science.
“The threat posed by CWD to deer hunting in America is difficult to overstate—for too long, funding woes, research questions, and ineffectual enforcement have resulted in a worsening status quo,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Curbing the accelerated spread of this disease each year requires an all-encompassing effort that can only be achieved by the pragmatic, bipartisan approach in this bill. The TRCP and our partners are grateful for the leadership of Representatives Kind and Thompson and look forward to working alongside both lawmakers to bring this critical legislation to passage.”
In the last two years, policymakers have committed to significant investments in conservation, infrastructure, and reversing climate change. Hunters and anglers continue to be vocal about the opportunity to create conservation jobs, restore habitat, and boost fish and wildlife populations. Support solutions now.