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Monday, December 29, 2014

Ind. Gov't. - "Buck Fever: Ohio deer case renews criticisms of trophy buck shipments"

Ryan Sabalow of the Indianapolis Star added another long report on Dec. 27th to his series on deer wasting disease and the captive deer industry. (Here is a list of all ILB entries relating to "deer", most of which concern high-fenced, or canned, hunting.)

Some quotes from Sabalow's most recent story:

Like 12 of the 23 states where CWD has been found, the first Ohio case cropped up in a commercial deer operation — in which deer bred for enormous antlers are shipped to fenced hunting preserves to be shot by hunters willing to pay thousands of dollars.

The Ohio case, more than other instances of the disease, calls into question the effectiveness of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's CWD monitoring program meant to keep interstate shipments safe.

The preserve was a known risk, one of 43 captive-deer facilities quarantined in Ohio after they received shipments of deer linked to a CWD outbreak in Pennsylvania. But officials say attempts to track the source of infection — a key component of the monitoring program —have so far proven futile. They cite poor record keeping, deer escapes and a tangled web of hundreds of deer shipments.

"To be perfectly honest I don't believe anybody is ever going to be able to prove where the chronic wasting disease came from, if in fact it only came from one location," said Dave Griswold, the assistant state veterinarian in Pennsylvania. "I would not be surprised if it came from several locations."

Since The Star investigation published in March, six members of Congress and more than two dozen conservation organizations sent letters to the USDA calling for greater restrictions on the interstate movement of deer. But agricultural officials rebuffed the call, saying the monitoring program was adequate.

After a heated political battle, Missouri joined 21 other states choosing to ban the importation of deer rather than relying on the federal monitoring program to protect their wild herds.

In response to such actions, trade representatives for the $1 billion captive-deer industry ramped up their lobbying and public relations efforts, arguing concerns about CWD are overblown and further regulation would cripple their industry. Increasingly, they blame wild deer for their infections and have targeted wildlife agencies for not doing more to stop its spread.

"It ain't the deer farmers spreading this," said Shawn Schafer, executive director of the North American Deer Farmers Association. "It ain't the deer farmers giving it to wild deer. It's the poor deer farmers being the victims of these environmental problems."

Meanwhile, agricultural officials in Iowa, the 10th state to discover its first case of CWD on a commercial captive-deer operation in 2012, stunned wildlife officials when they culled a captive herd on which CWD had been found. Promoters of the deer industry had long argued there was no proof that CWD was as communicable as wildlife researchers contend, that it might just appear spontaneously in deer.

After two years in court disputing the state's plans to kill the animals, the Iowa farmers received more than $900,000 in federal funds to compensate them for their animals.

But the test results appeared to confirm researchers' suspicions about how contagious the disease can be if left, as one researcher put it, to "percolate" inside a farmer's deer pen. Of the 356 animals killed this summer, 284 tested positive, an infection rate of almost 80 percent.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 29, 2014 03:22 PM
Posted to Indiana Government