Bob Frye / Tribune-Review
Chronic wasting diseases exists in the wild in parts of Pennsylvania. Keeping it from spreading is a big goal of wildlife managers.
It’s been hinted at, talked about and promised.
Now it’s here.
But will it work?
The Archery Trade Association, the trade group for America’s bowhunting industry, has launched what it’s calling a “Deer Protection Program” meant to do two things: protect deer herds from the spread of chronic wasting disease and keep manufacturers of deer urine products in business.
There’s been some call for those folks to be shut down.
Wasting disease, or CWD, is an always-fatal prion disease, similar to mad cow, that affects deer, elk, moose and other cervids. There’s no cure for it.
Once confined to the West, it’s now present in 23 states and two Canadian provinces.
It’s thought to be spread by deer-to-deer contact, via feces, saliva and urine.
Some have worried the urine collected from deer farms is untested — and possibly CWD tainted — and could conceivably allow hunters to unknowingly spread the disease to new places.
The Archery Trade Association says there’s “a lack of science” to support that worry.
Still, several states – Vermont fist, followed by Virginia and Alaska – have outlawed the use of deer urine attractants. Pennsylvania Game Commissioners have debated whether to initiate such a ban here, too, though they’ve taken no action.
The “deer protection program” is intended to convince them and their counterparts in other states not to.
The association says it was developed over the last two years with input from “the nation’s top CWD experts and state wildlife agencies.”
It places restrictions on participating urine manufacturers meant to ensure their products are CWD free. Specifically, participating companies agree to abide by seven guidelines: enroll their herds in a federal herd certification program, whether required to by law or not; prohibit the import of live deer or elk as of Dec. 31 of this year; test all cervids transferred to another facility for CWD upon death; undergo complete facility inspections every three years and partial ones annually; undergo herd inspections; double fence their farms to keep captive deer in and wild ones out; and abide by an oversight advisory group.
Enrollees can display the association’s “seal of participation” on their product packaging.
“The seal demonstrates that the supplier and manufacturer are doing all they can to prevent CWD from harming our nation’s wild cervid populations,” said Mitch King, the group’s director of government relations.
Participation in the program is entirely voluntary.
Sixteen manufacturers, who provide about 95 percent of the urine business produced in a year’s time, are enrolled, though, King said. His hope is more of the smaller players will join, too.
In the meantime, the group is encouraging hunters to only buy products from participating manufacturers. The program will only succeed if they “understand how their buying decisions and actions afield can help control CWD’s spread,” King said.
More information about the program can be found here.