One state — not PA — bans deer urine lures

Posted on: May 6, 2015 | Bob Frye | Comments

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A desire to protect their deer herd has led Vewrmont wildlife officials to give preliminary approval to a proposal that would prohibit the possession and use of urine-based deer lures.

Vermont wildlife officials are taking a step that their counterparts in Pennsylvania would not.

Ironically, they’re doing it on the recommendation of the man who made the same pitch, unsuccessfully, here.

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board recently gave preliminary approval to a proposal to ban the possession and use of nature urine-based deer lures by hunters. In a press release, the agency said the move is meant to “reduce the threat of chronic wasting disease entering the state, which has the potential to devastate Vermont’s deer herd.”

Hunters would still be allowed to use synthetically-manufactured lures.

Wasting disease, known as CWD, is an always-fatal deer that affects deer, elk and moose. It’s been found in 23 states – including Pennsylvania – and two Canadian provinces. There’s no way to detect it in living animals, no treatment and no cure. If a deer gets CWD, it’s a goner.

The disease is thought to spread through deer-to-deer contact, via urine, saliva and feces. It spreads fastest when deer are concentrated. What’s more, it can persist in soil – where urine products are applied – for decades.

Given all that, before retiring as its wildlife veterinarian, Walt Cottrell tried to get the Pennsylvania Game Commission to ban the use of urine here.

The commission does prohibit its use in disease management areas, where CWD already exists – and is unlikely to ever go away. It allows it to be used in the places still free of the disease, though.

Does that make sense?

Commissioner Jay Delaney doesn’t think so. Just a few months ago he pointed out that the commission has done a lot to contain and slow the spread of CWD. Banning the use of urine is the one tool left on the table, and one the commission should use, he said.

Other commissioners have argued against taking the step, though, suggesting that until there’s direct proof of deer getting sick via urine products, they don’t want to limit manufacturers.

Cottrell and others convinced Vermont wildlife officials to act otherwise.

Cottrell said that once CWD arrives in an area, the “genie is out of the bottle.” Nowhere where CWD has been found has it ever been eradicated, he said. Instead, deer populations suffer.

As an example, he noted that 12 percent of Wyoming’s mule deer population had CWD in 1997, when it was first found in the herd. Today, 47 percent are infected.

He also pointed out that deer urine lures are not tested for CWD. There’s no way to track and recall bottles found to have it, either. That’s because lures from various places are typically mixed together so that there’s really no way to tell where a suspect sample originated, he added.

Krysten Schuler, a researcher at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, pointed out in the same press release that the deer farm in Pennsylvania where CWD was first found was selling deer urines online.

She therefore likewise supports Vermont’s urine ban, saying “implementing strong preventative measures is the only tool available to combat this disease.”

Nancy Matthews, dean of the University of Vermont’s Rubsenstein School of Environmental and Natural resources, who spent 13 years researching CWD in Wisconsin, called the move “in the best interest” of Vermont’s deer and moose, too.

Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board members must vote in favor of the ban one more time, later this year, for the ban to become official. It would go into effect in 2016.

Bob Frye is the editor. Reach him at 412-838-5148 or See other stories, blogs, videos and more at

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