NDA Discusses Social Science of CWD at two National Conferences

March 16, 2020 | by National Deer Alliance

National Deer Alliance (NDA) president and CEO Nick Pinizzotto recently discussed the social science behind chronic wasting disease (CWD) management at two national wildlife management conferences. Pinizzotto presented his talk, “Biology vs Sociology: The Paradox of Chronic Wasting Disease,” at the Southeast Deer Study Group meeting in Auburn, Alabama on February 24, and at the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Omaha, Nebraska, on March 12.

The talks focused on people management with respect to the disease. Pinizzotto emphasized that people, and hunters specifically, are the real key to beating CWD. He noted that hunters are the best tools wildlife managers have available, and that disease management input and buy-in from hunters is crucial to the fight against CWD.

“CWD is not the end of the world,” Pinizzotto said during one talk. “It’s our opportunity. To have any chance of success, we need the vision to engage hunters and win their trust. It won’t be easy. We’ll always have naysayers, those who tell people only what they want to hear. But they won’t solve this problem. Yes, we have biology on our side, but that doesn’t matter if we don’t win the people and keep hunters on our side.”

NDA prioritizes deer diseases as one of its priority areas, and chronic wasting disease falls squarely within this priority area. CWD is an unprecedented threat to healthy deer herds. Unlike other known or visible diseases though, CWD does not kill large amounts of deer at the same time, and affected deer often don’t show signs or symptoms until death is near. These factors, in addition to other communication and non-scientific-based reasoning from vocal groups and individuals, can leave hunters and members of the public confused, or without a sense of urgency of what’s at stake. So, clear and continued communication with hunters, and the general public, is incredibly important.

"It's important to look at CWD as a forever disease, or at least an issue that we'll all be dealing with for a long time with no foreseeable end in sight," said Pinizzotto. "Hunters are the greatest conservationists and we'll play the most important role when it comes to managing this disease. While ultimate victory may not be in sight, I'm confident that hunters will lead us to the many small wins it will take to keep CWD at bay."