Deer Industry Rebuts 'Belief' of PA Wildlife Official

Bob Frye’s recent article (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review) reveals a disturbing mindset among some Pennsylvania wildlife officials, a mindset which reveals political agendas that go beyond responsible management practices for wildlife.

Frye reported that board members and staff from Pennsylvania’ Bureau of Wildlife Management recently discussed Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a neurological disease among cervids that some believe could “decimate wild herds.”

According to Frye, Wayne Laroche, chief of the bureau of wildlife management, said “while there's no definitive proof, he believes the ‘primary mechanism’ behind the disease's spread nationwide has been the movement of captive deer from farm to farm.”

Laroche is free to ‘believe’ whatever he wants, but he is correct on one point — there is no proof to substantiate his belief, no more than he has proof of the Tooth Fairy or Easter Bunny. There is no evidence to support his belief in any case of CWD ever found in the wild. In contrast, there is proof CWD has been transmitted by taxidermy and by transporting hunter killed carcasses in areas such as New York and Michigan.

How can a state official publicly slander an entire industry without evidence or proof of industry-wide wrong-doing or negligence? How can a state official, who is charged with the ‘responsible’ management of wildlife act on a whimsical belief?

Perhaps Larouche should reconcile his belief with the fact that Maryland, New Mexico, Virginia and Wyoming all have documented cases of CWD, yet none of these states have a farmed elk or deer industry. North Dakota and West Virginia have found CWD in the wild, while their farmed industry has tested thousands of animals, and all have been negative.

The fact is that the deer industry has worked closely with federal and state agencies and veterinarians for more than 30 years, especially in CWD detection and prevention. At the recent annual USAHA conference, North American Deer Farmers Association (NADeFA) partnered with animal health officials to establish new testing protocols to help states, including Pennsylvania, make regulatory decisions about disease management.

CWD is known to exist in both wild and managed environments, and the truth is that no herds have been ‘decimated.’ Not one. The Colorado Division of Wildlife identified CWD in a wild elk in 1981, marking the first documented case of CWD in the wild. If the massive contagion theory were true, CWD — as a highly infectious and uncontrollable disease — would have wiped out elk in Colorado. But, today’s elk population is thriving.

NADeFA and the Pennsylvania Deer Farmers Association (PDFA), are at the forefront of CWD research and prevention. NADeFA spearheaded the effort to establish the Federal CWD Certification Program and NADeFA, in conjunction with the Cervid Livestock Foundation, sponsored research projects to enhance disease diagnosis and prevention. NADeFA also sponsored research at Kansas State University to develop an all-new ‘live test’ to help detect the CWD earlier.

While Laroche attempts to sway others with his unsubstantiated belief, NADeFA and PDFA will continue to lead the nation with responsible management and disease prevention efforts.

George Hazard, President
Pennsylvania Deer Farmers Association