Deer in wild

"If we don't get out ahead of this, there won't be a hunting industry." — Mark Zabel, associate director, Prion Research Center at Colorado State University 

There is good reason that the upcoming “traditional” slaughter of deer is called a "harvest." The North American Wildlife Model is an agricultural model applied to wildlife. To make deer plentiful for hunter satisfaction, the strategy is to farm for more deer, killing the bucks for heads on walls and leaving the does plentiful for birthing the next living targets.

Nov. 23-Dec. 1 is the nine-day gun deer kill. But expanded opportunities extend the nine-day season to four-and-a-half months, including Sept. 14-Jan. 5 for archery and crossbow. Many counties have an extended season through Jan. 31.

Since the kill started two months ago, I no longer see one of the twin yearling bucks who live on my 72 wooded acres. The other who grazed peacefully around the house, I have seen once, running in obvious terror through my yard.

In August, Jean Lotus wrote an article for UPI: "'Zombie' deer disease might put humans at risk, epidemiologists say."

“University of Minnesota infectious disease expert Michael Osterholm and other prion disease scientists believe chronic wasting disease could end up following a path similar to mad cow disease and jump to humans … ‘It is probable that human cases associated with the consumption of contaminated meat will be documented in the years ahead,’ Osterholm, of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, told the Minnesota legislature in February. ‘It is possible that a number of human cases will be substantial and will not be isolated events,’" she wrote.

Osterholm co-authored a paper published in the American Society for Microbiology documenting the rapid spread of CWD:

  • 2000: in five states and one Canadian province
  • 2010: in 17 states and two provinces
  • 2018: in 26 states and three provinces — also, South Korea, Finland, Norway and Sweden

“As a result of ongoing transmission among cervids, the frequency of human exposure to CWD prions is likely growing. The Alliance for Public Wildlife  estimates that 7,000 to 15,000 CWD-infected animals are consumed annually, a number that may increase by 20% each year," he wrote.

Prions are known to survive extreme heat, chemicals and radiation. They bind to plants and soil and persist in the environment for decades. Excreted through body fluids, saliva, urine and feces, they also spread through gut piles left behind by hunters. So the bans on feeding are farcical, with hunters dismembering carcasses throughout the environment, creating a massive spread of prions.

The study cited recent research with frightening results: “Two monkeys showing signs of prion infection … orally consumed skeletal muscle tissue, approximately equivalent to a human eating one 7-ounce steak per month, from asymptomatic, CWD-positive deer. These latter possible infections are most concerning, as that route of exposure is the most realistic for humans. Although the study is ongoing and has not been subjected to peer review, results reported to date cause concern over robustness of the CWD species barrier.”

The research suggests that the prions are morphing: “Evidence also suggests that emerging CWD strains could have broader host ranges and higher zoonotic potential … Regardless, the CWD species barrier between cervids and humans may not be fixed, and the risk for interspecies transmission may increase as CWD continues to spread and adapt.”

The paper homes in on Wisconsin: “Despite the Wisconsin DNR offering CWD testing to hunters in surveillance areas at no cost, only 5% of Wisconsin’s 336,464 deer harvested in 2018 were tested. Furthermore, only 4,925 of the 23,441 deer harvested in four Wisconsin counties (Dane, Iowa, Richland, and Sauk) where CWD is most established were tested in 2018, with 894 (18%) testing positive. More than 18,500 deer harvested in these four Wisconsin counties were not tested for CWD, suggesting that the meat from at least 3,000 CWD-positive animals was consumed, given the previously determined prevalence.”

The UPI article also reports: “Some herds in northern Colorado and southern Wisconsin now have between 40 and 50% of animals infected, wildlife experts say.”

The Wisconsin Deptartment of Health Services has documented 1,000 citizen volunteers who have consumed CWD-infected meat in a database to follow long-term, because the incubation delay of the disease could be a decade or more.

Cited in the UPI article: "’Human exposure is definitely increasing over time, with an increasing prevalence in herds where CWD has been established the longest. Humans are continuing to harvest and consume those animals,’ said Bryan Richards, emerging disease coordinator at the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin.”

Whatever happens to hunters and their families in the future, chronic wasting disease is an epidemic causing great suffering in deer now. It is characteristic of bureaucracies, when a remedy is not working, or is even counterproductive, to simply continue it more aggressively.

Some suggestions for humanely addressing the disease:

• Implement humane birth control. Instead of killing deer, hunters can humanely dart does with birth control implementing a non-toxic dye, and if a second dose is needed, have the challenge of darting the deer again. Gradually taking this artificially inflated deer herd back to a couple of hundred thousand in the state would reduce disease, without spreading it by dragging carcasses and gut piles around.

• Stop killing natural predators like bears, bobcats and coyotes. Stop promoting the illegal killing of wolves. These natural beings bring balance to ecosystems and health to the deer herd.

• Hunters routinely donate deer carcasses not tested for CWD to pantries. That should be banned.

• Do not expose children to deer carcass consumption (or killing deer). Hunters often target asymptomatic deer in the first stages of the disease.

Action Alert:

  • Please take citizen action to send this column to Gov. Evers and request that he take humane action to curb the suffering of our deer herd in endless assault and spread of chronic wasting disease through continued bloodshed all over the state. Point out that human and wildlife health are both increasingly at risk.
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  • Lions may be extinct in the next few decades. Share Lions4Lions on Facebook.
  • Petition to ban bear dancing shows in Russia.

Patricia Randolph of Portage is a longtime activist for wildlife. madravenspeak@gmail.com or www.wiwildlifeethic.org

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

Zombie Deer:  An Alternative to the Failed Policies Spreading CWD and Deer Blood across the Soil

"If we don't get out ahead of this, there won't be a hunting industry”, Mark Zabel, associate director, Prion Research Center at Colorado State University ~ https://mbio.asm.org/content/10/4/e01091-19

There is good reason that the upcoming “traditional” slaughter of deer is called a “harvest”.  The North American Wildlife Model is an agricultural model applied to wildlife.  To make deer plentiful for hunter satisfaction, the strategy is to farm for more deer, killing the bucks for heads on walls, and leaving the does plentiful for birthing the next living targets.

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