To ban or not to ban: deer urine debate continues

Posted on: March 24, 2016 | Bob Frye | Comments

Blog--UrineBob Frye / Tribune-Review
Urine-based attractants are a common sight in the archery aisle of every outdoors sporting goods store. But for how long?

Pennsylvania Game Commissioners haven’t adopted a statewide ban on the use of urine-based deer scents, as has been talked about.

That doesn’t mean it’s off their radar, though.

Commissioner Brian Hoover of Delaware County said the Archery Trade Association and deer urine manufacturers are attempting to develop a way of certifying urine as being chronic wasting disease free. He’d like to give that a chance to work, he said.

He’d also like to see a direct link between the use of urine and the appearance of wasting disease before approving a ban, he added.

At least one other commissioner may not be so patient, however.

The deer urine industry is large, accounting for tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity annually, said commissioner Dave Putnam of Centre County. But, he added, white-tailed deer hunting is worth more than $1 billion a year in Pennsylvania alone.

“When we start comparing the two, if we have to make sacrifices, it will be the urine manufacturers,” Putnam said.

He also pointed out that the same people saying there’s no direct link between deer urine use and wasting disease only go so far.

“None of them, zero, will say it can’t happen. There is risk there,” Putnam said.

Commission executive director Matt Hough echoed that when giving the agency’s annual report to the members of the House of Representatives game and fisheries committee. Deer attractants like urine carry risks; the commission just can’t quantify them yet, he said, and doesn’t want to put anyone out of business in the meantime.

It’s been “cautious” in considering bans as a result, he added.

“It’s a tough situation. It really is,” Hough said.

At least one state lawmaker wondered if the agency shouldn’t be more proactive. Rep. Gerald Mullery, a Luzerne County Democrat, asked if the agency might not only ban the use of deer urines, but the feeding of deer, in places where wasting disease has yet to be detected in wild herds.

“The last thing we want to have happen is to get to a situation where we’re playing catch up,” Mullery said.

Hough said Wayne Laroche, the leader of his bureau of wildlife management, is scheduled to meet with counterparts from the Department of Agriculture to talk about the threat of wasting disease and captive deer. The commission is awaiting test results from 4,500 wild hunter-killed deer, too.

Other steps might follow based on those things, he said, though he could not say what they might be.

The commission does want to be proactive in battling the disease, though, he said.

“One thing I do know is if we do nothing we’re going to lose that battle,” Hough said.

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

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