CWD Marches Ahead on Two Fronts

By author of The Duck Blog

Virginia Bans Urine-Based Attractants; Texas Deer Tests Positive

Chronic wasting disease continues its impact on the whitetail world, recently touching two great hunting states almost 1,000 miles apart.

As of July 1, Virginia hunters cannot use or possess deer scents or lures that contain natural deer urine or other bodily fluids. A press release from the state Department of Game and Inland Fisheries said prions, the infectious proteins that transmit CWD, have been found in the urine, feces and saliva of infected animals. Manufacturers make commercial scents by collecting urine from captive deer or elk using a grate system that does not prevent contamination, nor is the urine product treated with heat or chemicals to kill the proteins.

“The VDGIF is taking a proactive approach on this issue, and has banned possession and use until it is proven that prions are not spread in commercial deer urine products rather than continue to risk introducing CWD to new areas until it is confirmed that urine attractants do spread prions,” the release said. “VDGIF's intent with this regulation is to protect our deer hunting heritage by ensuring that future generations have the same opportunities to deer hunt as are available to Virginians today and to protect the long-term health and stability of the Virginia deer herd. Both of these goals can be achieved, in part, by trying to minimize the areas in Virginia infected with CWD.”

It’s still legal to buy and sell products with deer urine or other bodily fluids, the department said. However, people cannot possess those scents or attractants while hunting, attracting or scouting any wild animal.

CWD was documented in a wild Virginia deer in 2010. VDGIF said it has spent more than $1 million to monitor and manage the disease.

Meanwhile, Texas officials recently announced that CWD was found in a captive 2-year-old whitetail at a Medina County breeding facility. The discovery marks the first time the disease has been documented in state whitetails, though it was discovered in mule deer in the Hueco Mountains in far western Texas in 2012.

A press release from the Texas Department of Wildlife and Parks said officials have secured all cervids at the breeding facility and will conduct further tests. Also, facilities that received deer from the infected operation the past two years cannot move or release cervids. The department has halted the release of captive deer from all breeder facilities into the wild until further review.

“This is a terribly unfortunate development that we are committed to addressing as proactively, comprehensively and expeditiously as possible, Carter Smith, TPWD executive director, said in the release. “The health of our state’s wild and captive deer herds, as well as affiliated hunting, wildlife, and rural-based economies, are vitally important to Texas hunters, communities and landowners. As such, our primary objectives are to determine the source of the disease and to identify other deer breeding facilities and release sites that may have received deer from affected facilities.”

CWD is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy in cervids. It is progressive and always fatal. The disease has been found in captive and free-ranging cervid populations in 23 states and two Canadian provinces.