NADeFA Rebuts Irresponsible CWD Comments

In his article “Disease Killing Deer, Hurting Economy,” Cody Sanders wrote: “If CWD spreads far and wide in Missouri, deer hunting as we know it will cease to exist, and rural Missouri economies will lose the significant financial benefit hunters bring to their cities and towns.”

Regretfully, this statement is irresponsible rhetoric. Where has CWD ever caused significant loss to rural economies from loss of hunting revenue? Where is the statistical data that shows CWD has eradicated the deer population of any state?

Since CWD was discovered nearly four decades ago, we’ve repeatedly seen headlines predicting the disease will wipe out entire populations of deer and elk.

The fact is that no state’s deer population has ever been decimated by CWD, and there is no evidence that a state’s hunting revenue has ever depreciated from CWD..

Government officials, wildlife biologists and the cervid industry as a whole have closely monitored CWD for more than 30 years. CWD exists in both wild and managed environments, and the truth is that no herds have been ‘decimated’ by CWD.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife first identified CWD in a wild elk in 1981. If the often hyped massive contagion theory were true, CWD — as a highly infectious and uncontrollable disease — would have wiped out the elk in Colorado. But today — 35 years later — the Colorado elk population is thriving.

Sanders also implies that CWD is only transmitted from farm-raised deer to wild deer, when the exact opposite is a much more likely scenario. Wild deer are by far the greatest carrier of the disease. Wild deer far outnumber the small herds of farm-raised animals, and the percentage of wild deer tested for CWD is scientifically insignificant.

Hunting preserves and deer farms follow vigorous CWD certification programs with state and federal guidelines and oversight. In most states, deer farmers collect and test samples on EVERY deer — 100 PERCENT — that dies on the farm.

However, wildlife officials do NOT test every wild deer death; do NOT test every hunter harvested deer; and do NOT test every deer carcass transported across state lines by hunters. By and large, CWD in the wild is left unchecked, unmanaged and unreported.

It should also be noted that the new regulations proposed by the Missouri Department of Conservations have been in place in Arkansas for longer than any state in the nation. Yet, Arkansas has found CWD at high levels. Plus, according to available data, there has been no noticeable impact on the overall deer population, nor to hunting.

Disease prevention for animals — both wild and domestic — is essential. But before the media insights fear of an impending ‘deer apocalypse,’ it’s important that efforts and discussions be guided by science, not headlines and hype.

Shawn Schafer, Executive Director
North American Deer Farmers Association