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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Ind. Gov't. - More on: "Indiana DNR calls scientific heavy hitters to captive-deer hearing"

Updating yesterday's pre-meeting story, both Ryan Sabalow of the Indianapolis Star and Niki Kelly of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette report on yesterday's meeting. Just a few quotes from the long Star story:

Federal agricultural officials say they will not restrict the interstate shipment of captive deer — despite disease concerns raised by scientists and six members of Congress.

That decision, outlined in a letter from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, comes as a summer study committee made up of Indiana lawmakers met Tuesday to consider — among other things — a possible ban on deer imports.

So far, 21 states have issued such bans, fearing the spread of the always-fatal deer ailment, chronic wasting disease.

Vilsack said new rules for the nation's deer farms do enough to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease and bovine tuberculosis, while promoting the burgeoning deer industry, which primarily breeds deer with enormous antlers to be shot on fenced hunting preserved.

In a letter to U.S. Rep. Jim Moran, D-Virginia, Vilsack said the federal agency believes it has struck the right balance in "improving the domestic and international marketability" of the nation's deer farms while also keeping "strong safeguards" in place to prevent the spread of disease.

"This is consistent with our successful approaches to addressing a number of other livestock diseases in the United States," Vilsack wrote. Moran and five other Democrats had requested a ban.

The decision leaves the matter to states like Indiana, where consensus is not easy to obtain. In Missouri the governor recently vetoed its legislature after it tried to block the state's wildlife agency which had called for ban on imports.

In Indiana, lawmakers heard four hours of testimony Tuesday, but the panel appeared no closer to making a decision on that front.

Both the study session and Moran's concerns were in response to an Indianapolis Star investigation that uncovered case after case linking the industry to the spread of chronic wasting disease.

Lawmakers heard from four wildlife disease experts called to testify by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. They cited documented cases in which the interstate captive-deer industry was linked to the spread of diseases. They also testified that CWD is spreading rapidly among wild herds in some states and states have spent millions of dollars trying to contain the disease. * * *

But the panel also heard testimony from four in-state veterinarians who said current disease testing requirements from the Indiana Board of Animal Health are more than adequate.

"We have probably one of the most robust regulatory structures in the country as far as keeping CWD out," said Darryl Ragland, a Purdue University veterinarian who works for deer farmers. "We have a program in place that is working."

From the FWJG, where the story is headed "Deadly deer disease adds layer to canned-hunt debate::
Lawmakers received an education Tuesday on chronic wasting disease, a deadly infection that is the new epicenter of a debate about deer farms and captive hunts in Indiana.

The Agriculture and Natural Resources Study Committee heard nearly five hours of testimony from both sides. The panel could give recommendations for action to the legislature this year.

It’s the latest chapter in the complicated history of high-fenced hunting in Indiana.

Opponents are focusing on preventing or delaying the potential spread of chronic wasting disease by banning importing deer into the state and continuing a prohibition on captive hunts.

“The disease is moving across the landscape,” said Dr. Bryan Richards, of the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center. “Will it get here over time? It’s certainly a possibility. Do you want it sooner or later? You can have an impact on the time of arrival.”

But supporters have pushed the General Assembly for years to legalize high-fenced hunting and say Indiana regulators are on top of the chronic wasting disease threat.

High-fenced hunting preserves place deer with big racks in large confined spaces, and hunters can shoot them for high prices. * * *

Chronic wasting disease is a progressive, neurological disorder that always kills the deer it is found in. It is transmitted freely from animal to animal. Soil can also be contaminated by the deer.

Richards pointed out that Indiana bans importing from states – about 20 – with chronic wasting disease, but said just because deer farms import from a currently CWD-free state doesn’t mean the animals don’t have the disease.

That’s because there’s no live test, and the deer can have it for two years before showing symptoms.

Other experts testified that the movement of deer in and out of the state – and between deer farms and hunting facilities within Indiana – increases the risk for the disease.

It can also be spread from a captive herd to the wild through nose-to-nose transmission on a fence line or escapes.

States have spent millions trying to eradicate the disease and hunting has dropped sharply.

Supporters of deer farming say an infected deer can easily walk into the state now.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 20, 2014 08:50 AM
Posted to Indiana Government