As hunters, we need to reckon with a scary new reality: Chronic wasting disease has spread rapidly among wild deer and elk populations, particularly in the last ten years. If you don’t have CWD where you hunt, you don’t want it. This disease is 100% fatal, manifests slowly, and can remain in an infected environment for years. To avoid bringing CWD home with us, we’re all going to have to take extra steps in the field to be part of the solution. That’s why we asked MeatEater‘s Janis Putelis to demonstrate the best way to de-bone your deer and dispose of parts of the carcass that may carry CWD. This is a great skill to have in your arsenal and will help stop the spread of this disease.

Overview of the issue

Chronic wasting disease is spreading alarmingly among deer herds in states all across the country, creating uncertainty for hunters and driving up costs for wildlife agencies faced with the prospect of controlling the disease.

This disease could have huge impacts on the future of deer hunting and funding for wildlife habitat conservation, as 80 percent of all hunters hunt deer and contribute the most money through the purchase of licenses and gear. Testing for the disease is costly and time consuming, and the presence of CWD-positive deer already has some hunters questioning whether their venison is safe to eat. (For an in-depth look at what’s infecting the brains and tissues of deer and elk, click here.)

Failing to deal with the spread of CWD will certainly increase the challenges associated with recruiting and retaining more hunters. That’s why the TRCP, Archery Trade Association, National Wildlife Federation, National Deer Alliance, Quality Deer Management Association, Wildlife Management Institute, and others have come together to get deer hunters involved.

How you can help

Real and meaningful steps must be taken by the federal government to finally begin to control this emerging epidemic. If we don’t act soon, the very future of hunting and wildlife conservation could be at stake. Hunters have played a major role in the recovery of deer herds on the North American landscape, one of the best conservation success stories in our history. But we must do our part again.

Start by making these changes, including following all regulations on the transport and disposal of harvested deer, to step the spread of CWD where you hunt. And be sure to pay attention to the real experts, not the ones paid for by the captive deer industry. [Think you know your CWD facts? Take our quiz to test your knowledge.]

Finally, push decision-makers at the USDA to hold the captive deer industry accountable for recent catastrophic CWD outbreaks.



Other Resources

Top photo courtesy of Northwoods Collective