NDA and Conservation Partners Support Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Management of CWD

February 19, 2019 | by National Deer Alliance

The National Deer Alliance (NDA) is joined by an impressive list of conservation organizations supporting the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s chronic wasting disease (CWD) management strategy, while reinforcing that ample scientific research points to prions as causing the disease.

CWD has been identified as a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE), and prions are central to TSE genesis. Other prion diseases, such as scrapie in sheep, “mad cow” in cattle, and Creutzfeld-Jakob in humans, have similar characteristics. All TSEs are 100% fatal, and deer that become infected may carry and spread the disease for more than two years before dying. Models of CWD epidemic dynamics suggest early, aggressive intervention via selective population reduction through increased harvest show the greatest promise for slowing the spread of the disease.

“As a wild deer-focused conservation organization, we support the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s management of CWD, including the practice of reducing herd sizes to slow the spread in those areas where the disease exists,” said Nick Pinizzotto, president and CEO of the National Deer Alliance. “We are focused on ensuring the long-term health of deer, hunting, and industry, and despite the challenges CWD presents, we’re confident that deer and our hunting heritage will endure.”

The unique characteristics of prions make CWD particularly challenging to manage in wild, free-ranging deer and elk herds, but dedicated efforts have been shown to be effective in some states. The Pennsylvania Game Commission’s methods for controlling the disease, including disease management actions reducing population density to interrupt the disease cycle, is scientifically guided, and gleaned from the experiences other states have had.

“There is international agreement among scientific agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that prions are believed to be the infectious agent that causes TSEs,” said Dr. Krysten Schuler, a wildlife disease ecologist and co-director of the Cornell Wildlife Health Lab. “Viruses and bacteria are not supported as potential causes of TSEs for a number of reasons, which include lack of an immune response, resistance to normal disinfection procedures, environmental persistence for years to decades, and intensive genetic study.”

“Targeted removal of deer is always contentious, but research from Illinois shows it can be effective at keeping the CWD prevalence rate from increasing,” said Kip Adams, director of conservation at Quality Deer Management Association. “The goal of the Game Commission’s project in Bedford and Blair counties includes killing some deer now to save a much larger number in the future.”

Pinizzotto added, “We empathize with those who live and hunt in CWD management areas, but the worst thing to do is nothing while hoping for the situation to manage itself. Bad news doesn’t get better with time and hoping CWD goes away on its own is not a worthy strategy, which has been proven in other areas of the country.”

“The Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen and Conservationists, the Commonwealth’s largest and oldest organized sportsmen’s group, recognizes the importance of managing CWD, and supports the Pennsylvania Game Commission in their efforts to combat it,” said John Kline, director of government affairs. “We look forward to hunters having the opportunity to assist with accomplishing the desired outcomes.”

Organizations joining National Deer Alliance, Quality Deer Management Association, and Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen and Conservationists in supporting the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s CWD management plan include Archery Trade Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Mule Deer Foundation, National Shooting Sports Foundation, National Wildlife Federation, Pennsylvania  Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Pope and Young Club, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

The Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance promotes responsible and accurate communications regarding CWD and supports strategies that effectively control the disease to minimize its impact on wild, free-ranging deer and elk populations. For the most accurate and comprehensive news and information about CWD, as well as a searchable research database, visit the group’s website at cwd-alliance.org.