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In response to Bob Frye’s Outdoors column “Frye: Chronic wasting disease news and hunter trends” : Following a deer testing positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD), reforms are needed to better track the disease.
Deer farms are already testing heavily for CWD: The state has mandated CWD surveillance on private facilities and movements of animals are also tracked. Further, any farm in the country that moves deer across state lines has to abide by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s CWD certification program. To be eligible, a facility must test all eligible mortalities for at least five years with no CWD positives.
In contrast, state wildlife agencies across the country routinely test only 1 percent of the animals; in Pennsylvania, only 48,000 free-ranging animals have been tested since 1998. There are over 1 million free-ranging deer in the state. That’s a low testing rate, and it means the state does not have an accurate picture of whether free-ranging deer are spreading CWD across the state.
Fortunately, CWD is rare. USDA data collected between 1998 and 2012 show CWD is prevalent in only four in 1,000 free-ranging deer and elk, and prevalent at half that rate in farmed cervids. However, the state needs to do more testing of free-ranging animals to better address the disease. Deer farms are already regulated and the fact that they are testing regularly shouldn’t be used against them.
The writer is a council member with the American Cervid Alliance (americancervidalliance.org).