Frankfort, KY – “It’s a risk we strongly feel Kentucky doesn’t want to take,” said Dr. Jon Gassett, commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR).
Gassett’s comment comes in response to proposed Senate Bill 129, which would re-open the threat of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) becoming established in Kentucky’s wild deer and elk herds. SB 129 proposes to allow importation of pen-kept deer into the Commonwealth again, starting in 2008. Deer kept in captivity are the number one source of CWD, which is fatal to whitetails and elk. CWD, the deer and elk form of “Mad Cow” disease, has been proven to spread to wild herds when infected captive animals are transported from one facility to another, and infected deer come into contact with wild deer through fence openings, accidental release or otherwise.
KDFWR officials fought hard in 2002 to minimize the chance that CWD, which is fatal to whitetail deer and elk, would get a foothold in Kentucky and perhaps cause the loss of millions of dollars to the state’s economy. Kentucky’s deer and elk herds generate $500 million to the state’s economy through hunting and viewing opportunities and are responsible for almost 4,000 jobs.
States where CWD has been found have spent millions of dollars attempting to eradicate it, and have lost thousands of animals to the disease.
“We’ve been incredibly fortunate that it’s not found its way into Kentucky so far, unlike other states and provinces to our north and west,” said Gassett.
“We’ve taken the steps necessary to minimize the chance of it getting into Kentucky’s wild herd from penned-raised animals being traded back and forth from out-of-state sources,” Gassett continued, “and have done so with as little impact as possible to those in the captive cervid business.”
“SB 129 would undo the progress we’ve made, and will make us much more vulnerable to mass loss of deer and elk, loss of dollars to our economy, and sportsman’s dollars that would be lost to correct the problem,” Gassett said.
“For these reasons, SB 129 appears not to be in the best interest of the resources we are charged to manage and conserve for Kentuckians, nor best for the hundreds of thousands who use these resources for enjoyment,” Gassett concluded.
Those wishing to voice their opinion on Senate Bill 129 may contact their legislator by calling the toll free legislative message line 1-800-372-7181 and leaving a message regarding this issue.