CWD UPDATE June 13, 2003

The ongoing investigation into the BSE case in Canada has resulted in the quarantine of 18 farms in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. All cattle tested in the trace forward segment have come back without any more positives. Testing of cattle in the trace back segment is continuing. The birthplace of the infected cow is still under question and DNA has failed to identify this herd. Five bulls from the same herd have been traced to a ranch in Montana (going there in 1997), however, it is believed that these animals have already been slaughtered. The USDA ban on the import of ruminants and ruminant parts is still in place and affects all ruminants, not just livestock. This means that all free roaming ruminants in Canada are affected by the ban. If not changed by this fall’s hunting season, it would prevent U. S. hunters from bringing back meat, hides and trophy heads of any big game ruminant harvested.

About $20 million worth of Canadian beef exports to Korea and Japan will have to be removed and might end up being destroyed, the Canadian Beef Export Federation said today. Most countries that banned Canadian beef after the finding of BSE in Alberta permitted those shipments already in-route to enter the country. However, Japan and Korea seized all shipments are now wanting to send them back to Canada.

A member of the Wisconsin legislature recently raised concerns over a reported experiment at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that inoculated mule deer with CWD in a research facility in 1988. Additionally, this person reported that Wisconsin DNR had immediately confiscated a hunter-harvested mule deer in the Mt. Horeb area that same year. Although there was no evidence indicating such, this person was connecting the two rumors with the outbreak of CWD in the Mt. Horeb area in 2002. A news release issued by the University has cleared up this bit of speculation. In the research, brain tissue samples from a Colorado mule deer infected with CWD were used to inoculate other species to determine if CWD could jump from one species to another. Results of this research showed the difficulty of transmitting CWD to other species. All materials from those experiments were securely contained and disposed of properly. No live mule deer were used in the UW research or imported to Wisconsin by the University. Appears to be yet another case of someone jumping on a rumor before determining the facts.

Reports out of Alberta indicate that a herd of elk roaming the countryside near Valleyview, Alberta originated from a game farm herd and were released, either accidentally or intentionally. Alberta Agriculture also state that a second herd spotted in northwestern Alberta is also suspected of having come from a game farm. Wildlife officers have shot 20 elk in the first herd and officials are attempting to remove the remainder of the animals. It has been reported that the shot animals had obviously had ear tags in place but they had been removed.

The University of Wisconsin has received grants totaling close to 5.2 million dollars to research CWD. Research will investigate genetic variations of the disease among deer, the transmission of CWD to other species, the contamination of soil with the infectious agent and the biological markers that occur early in CWD infection, possibly leading to the development of a live animal test.

The courts have upheld a ban on the farming of white-tail deer in Tennessee. The Tennessee legislature had banned the private ownership of white-tail deer in 1991 but had been challenged in court by three individuals that said that the law was unconstitutional and hindered interstate commerce. In his opinion, Judge Kilcrease wrote, “Any burden on interstate commerce imposed by the state’s ban on the personal possession of white-tailed deer is relatively slight in comparison to Tennessee’s interests in protecting the health and safety of the white-tailed deer.”

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus has formed a CWD Task Force. Representatives Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Ron Kind (D-WI) will co-chair this new effort. Representatives Lee Terry (R-NE) and Mark Udall (D-CO) will serve as vice chairs and additional members of the Caucus from CWD affected states are being invited to join the Task Force. The goals of the CWD Task Force are to increase awareness, discussion and debate of CWD between members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, and the entire Congress as well as to work collaboratively to develop and implement actions to improve the management of CWD. Using the CWD Task Force as a framework, the Caucus will address the growing problem of CWD in cervids (deer and elk) by devising and managing legislative initiatives that help combat the spread of CWD, assist with the monitoring and eradication efforts, provide for research and development of databases, and provide funding for the state agencies to perform these functions.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency reports that a second deer from the infected farm in Alberta has tested positive for CWD. This was a four-year-old buck born on the farm. There is some confusion on the reporting of this animal and various statements made by the involved agencies. However, the upshot is that one farm in Alberta has had two whitetail deer test positive.