Chronic wasting disease (CWD) has taken the headlines in the media on numerous occasions as of late. I know that here at the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association (MDHA) we have been heavily involved in the disease since it was discovered in Wisconsin back in March of 2002. I knew then that it would be an interesting fall to say the least.
I could repeat the science of the disease once again, but this seems to receive less attention than sensationalistic media. I have found that my articles containing factual information on CWD have been passed up many a time, where as peoples “opinions” have made the headlines on numerous occasions. So, I decided to leave the science out of this article, and just give my opinion on the situation. Please understand, there are many individuals in the media who have done an excellent job of conveying accurate information regarding CWD, and I applaud them.
I would like to first emphasize the most important factor in deciding whether or not people will hunt this year, education. MDHA, along with numerous state and federal organizations, is working non-stop to provide people with the factual scientific information from which they can base their decisions. Unfortunately, there is no paucity of media using less than accurate information, hunches, and opinions. While the individuals providing the information feel they are doing the public a service by getting the information out, they are really performing a disservice by confusing the public about the disease. Please understand, by providing inaccurate information you may incorrectly influence someone’s decision to hunt, and that’s just not fare.
I know that there are theories ranging from black helicopters introducing CWD to control deer herds, to sheep meal containing scrapie being fed to deer in Colorado to explain the origin of CWD. This doesn’t mean that we print each one of these theories, or that any of them are accurate. I cannot count the number of inaccuracies that abound in the media today relating to CWD. The best thing we can do is provide the public with accurate scientific information, and then let them make their own educated decision. Remember, the story changes every barber shop it passes through, just like the fish that gets bigger every time the story is told. We need to start out with good information.
That being said, let me clarify that MDHA is not downplaying CWD. We here at MDHA think CWD is important because of what we know it to be, a disease that affects deer and elk. The Minnesota Deer Hunters Association is very concerned with CWD because it can affect the health and overall status of the MN deer herd. Deer hunting in the Midwest is far too important of a tradition, and the deer herd in the Midwest is much too important to jeopardize. Hunting brings people into the outdoors, and with urbanization that is becoming increasingly important.
It is becoming increasingly difficult for deer hunters to discern what the truth is regarding CWD, because one week the media portrays a positive image and the next they paint a bleak picture. If I wasn’t as closely involved with the situation as I am, I would be one of two things; confused, or numb about the situation.
It amazes me to this day that CWD seems to get more emphasis than the West Nile virus. Here is a wildlife disease known to transmit to humans, and even cause death. The obvious precaution there would be to stay inside. How many people stay inside because of West Nile virus? Hunters, would you stop hunting because of West Nile, and the chance that you may be bitten by a mosquitoe carrying the disease? I doubt it. Yet some are willing to dismiss the hunting season because of a disease (CWD) that has not shown to transmit to humans, and has not even been found in the wild deer herd?
Once again, let me reiterate that hysteria should not be the goal regarding CWD. Our goal should be accurate information, which then leads to educated decisions. Let’s get the facts out to the public about what we know and don’t know about CWD, and let them decide.
The time has come when hunters are asked to live up to their commitment of herd management, and tradition. There are a lot of deer out there this year, and a tremendous amount of opportunity to harvest these animals. I hope to see you out in the field. I am hunting this year. I have already been out a few times during the archery season. I plan to harvest deer this year, process them, and consume them. This hunting season is very clear to me, I am hunting, there’s no fog clouding my judgment on this decision.
For those seeking accurate up to date information regarding CWD, check out the following websites:
CWD Alliance (www.cwd-info.org)
MN DNR (www.dnr.state.mn.us)
Wisconsin DNR (www.dnr.state.wi.us)
MN BAH (www.bah.state.mn.us)
MN Dept. Agriculture (www.mda.state.mn.us)
MN Dept. Health (www.health.state.mn.us)
USDA APHIS (www.aphis.usda.gov)
University of MN (www.cvm.umn.edu)
University of Wyoming Veterinary Lab (www.wyovet.edu/WSVL/cwd.html)