« Alaska Grizzly Takes Down Moose in Driveway, On Video | Main | Is CWD a Health Risk for Humans? »

May 10, 2007

This page has been moved to http://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/field-notes

If your browser doesn’t redirect you to the new location, please visit The Field Notes at its new location: www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/field-notes.

Special Feature: The Quiet Spread of CWD

By Jim Thornton. Illustration by Jason Holley.

Cwd_illo_2In the fall of 2004, a highway crew picked up the carcass of a road-killed buck near Slanesville, W.Va. The workers took the animal to a compost facility, where a wildlife manager -arrived to pull tissue samples. He made an incision in the deer’s neck and popped out a lymph node the size of a cocktail olive. He then cut through its neck vertebrae and removed a slightly larger brain structure called the obex. After being fixed in formaldehyde, these samples were sent to the University of Georgia, where preliminary test results were positive for CWD, or chronic wasting disease. By fall 2005, the tissues had been forwarded to the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Lab in Ames, Iowa, which confirmed the diagnosis. It was the first positive case of CWD found in an -east-central state.

Like mad cow disease in cattle, scrapie in sheep, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in people, CWD
is an incurable and fatal condition that afflicts whitetails, mule deer, elk, and moose. All are “transmissible spongiform encephalopathies,” which researchers believe are caused by mysterious, nonliving proteins known as prions. Prions accumulate in lymphatic and nerve tissues, riddling a victim’s brain with holes (the “sponge” in spongiform), and in the process causing a horrific death.

See incriminating high-fence video
Behind-the-scenes lab photos
Health risks to humans
Take our poll

CWD was first discovered in the 1960s in captive cervids in Colorado. In 1981, the first wild cases appeared
in Rocky Mountain National Park. Over the next few decades, it spread through free-ranging deer and elk populations in Colorado and Wyoming, and eventually into adjacent states.

In 2002, the disease moved east of the Mississippi, with whitetails in Wisconsin, then Illinois, testing positive. For eastern state game managers, the jump to the Midwest was a nightmare realized: proof that the East’s much more densely populated herds were at risk. Wildlife managers stepped up their surveillance. In West Virginia, this included a cooperative agreement between the Division of Natural Resources and the highway department to sample road-killed deer. For the next three years, monitoring throughout the East was reassuring, with no new cases reported.

Then in April 2005, one emerged in Oneida County in central New York. The deer was a local game-farmed whitetail whose meat had been donated to a sportsmen’s charity feast. The test result came back only after some 350 people had consumed steak, chili, stew, and sausage from the diseased animal. Subsequent testing of a 15-mile area in Oneida County found that CWD had crossed into wild deer populations. New York’s experience left eastern DNR officers no longer wondering if but when the disease would strike their states.

In the case of West Virginia, it took less than six months to become the 14th state (along with two Canadian provinces and the nation of South Korea) to report CWD. Slanesville, perched as it is in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, sits a mere 10 miles from the Virginia line and only a couple of dozen miles from Pennsylvania and Maryland—all of which support huge wild deer populations. “You probably couldn’t have picked an area that affects more states,” says Paul Johansen, assistant chief of the West Virginia DNR. “We got word of our positive reading late on a Friday afternoon, and one of the first things we did was pick up the phone and call our counterparts in neighboring states. They immediately offered their assistance—everything from staff to equipment to moral support.”

Among other strategies, wildlife authorities immediately established a containment zone, and a collection team of sharpshooters harvested 216 deer, four of which tested positive. To further lower deer populations, the DNR proposed an antlerless season, restricted the transport of carcasses outside the zone, and outlawed baiting and backyard feeding.

That fall, hunters took an additional 1,016 deer within the zone; all were negative. Alas, in the spring of 2006, a second collection team culled 85 more deer, four of which tested positive.

“So far our preliminary surveillance indicates the disease is still confined geographically,” says Johansen. “I think we have a chance of containing it in this area. I just hope it holds.”

Even if West Virginia succeeds at this—something no other affected states have managed to do—the costs are already soaring. “From a conservation standpoint,” says Brian Preston, a regional representative for the National Wildlife Federation, “it’s like trying to get the toothpaste back into the tube. Once CWD gets into the wild, you virtually can’t get it off the landscape. Management of it is a huge distraction of resources. Money for fisheries, quail, and every other game species gets diverted to deal with this nasty disease.”

Recent computer models now predict that the once unthinkable—local extinctions of deer populations due to CWD—are not only conceivable but increasingly likely within the next 20 to 50 years. For his part, Johansen tries not to dwell on the distant future, adding that he has enough to worry about in the short term. “Since we got our first case,” he says, “life has totally changed here at the WVDNR. I don’t like to think about worst-case scenarios, but I can tell you from our agency’s perspective, we’re running flat out right now. If CWD surfaces in another location, that’s going to really stretch us thin. I’m not sure I’ve got any more resources to throw at this thing.”

The Long-term Spread
Although CWD has not yet panned out as a significant health concern for humans (a fact that seems to have engendered a sense of public complacency regarding the disease), it remains a staggering threat to cervids. The chief reason: Unlike other prion diseases, this form has proved remarkably easy to pass from one animal to the next. “This is perhaps the most unique feature of CWD—how readily it can be transmitted from deer to deer,” says veterinarian Edward A. Hoover, PhD, a professor at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

Hoover is the lead author of a landmark CWD study published in the October 2006 issue of Science, a report that has further stoked anxiety levels in wildlife managers. He and his colleagues proved that the abnormal prions exist in both the saliva and blood of infected cervids. Though transmission via the latter is less likely in the wild, the former is inevitable given a wide range of deer behaviors, from licking scrapes and nose nuzzling to side-by-side grazing and grooming.

On game farms, where cervids are concentrated in high numbers, one contaminated animal can quickly infect 80 percent of the herd. In a few localized hot zones in Colorado and Wyoming, where the disease has been present for decades, prevalence rates of 30 to 50 percent have been reported in wild herds.
Cervids have no natural immunity to CWD, and there is no treatment. Most researchers believe animals are contagious long before they develop noticeable symptoms. These may take years to show, but eventually all victims succumb to a pattern of staggering, shaking, and excessive salivation, thirst, and urination. This “night of the living deer” stage leads to death.

Equally disturbing, the prions responsible don’t disappear along with their victim’s demise but rather leach intact into the environment. Recent studies have shown that prions are extraordinarily resistant to natural decay. Take the carcass of a deer felled by CWD, dump it in a fenced pasture, return in a couple of years and remove the now bare skeleton from the landscape, then reintroduce healthy deer. Many of these animals, researchers have found, will become infected.

“Prions bind tightly to soil particles,” says Bryan J. Richards, head of CWD research at the Department of the Interior’s National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis. “For at least three years—the longest these paddock studies have been conducted in deer—prions in the soil continue to be infectious.” Though admittedly less efficient than direct deer-to-deer transmission, it is enough of a threat that wildlife officials must go to great lengths to safely dispose of CWD-positive carcasses.

In Wisconsin, for instance, any deer testing positive must, by law, be placed into a monstrous contraption called a tissue digester, which uses heat and chemicals to break down the prion protein. It’s expensive, but only one of multiple costs that have together rung up a $26 million tab for CWD management in Wisconsin since 2002. And it’s an important preventive measure.

“Conservation for future generations is one of the core missions of natural resource agencies,” says Richards. “Even at $26 million, are we doing enough to combat CWD? Years from now, do you want to go deer hunting in an area where every other deer is infected with a neuro-degenerative disease? It will be up to future generations to judge our efforts.”

The High-Fence Factor
With no way to treat the disease, all wildlife managers can do to contain CWD is to curtail “accelerants” of the contagion. For cervids, the prime accelerants revolve around concentrating deer numbers beyond natural limits. The greater the overpopulation of a species, the greater the likelihood that disease will spread through its ranks.

Even in locales where wild deer have not exceeded the land’s carrying capacity, human behavior can dangerously increase local deer densities. Take baiting, for instance. Ethical or not, researchers believe the practice can serve as a powerful CWD accelerant. “What you get,” says Preston, “is an already high-density herd, all coming together to swap spit every night at the bait pile.”

Arguably the most controversial means of concentrating cervids occurs within the so-called captive-deer industry. In some cases, popu-lation densities of fenced-in deer, elk, and other “farmed” cervids extrapolate out to 10,000 animals per square mile. Some 8,000 such businesses exist in the multiple states that allow them. Fawns are born in pens, raised to adulthood, then sold for a variety of purposes, from “Velvet Viagra” (an aphrodisiac harvested from antlers that was exported to South Korea until a farmed elk tested positive for CWD) to meat sold to restaurants and supermarkets.

But by far the greatest revenue for most of these operators comes from the lucrative sale of trophy animal “targets”—big bucks for big bucks. Top-class whitetails can go for up to $12,000, and in Texas some “hunts” have been documented in the $40,000 range. The marketing slogan for one establishment nicely sums up the hunting “ethic” at many such places: “We supply the trophy—you supply the lie.”

There are some responsible, regulation-compliant proprietors in the captive-cervid industry, but officers like Wisconsin game warden Ron Preder have seen firsthand how farms that operate under the radar can contribute to the CWD problem. “We’ve been involved in this business long enough,” he says, “to know that not everybody plays by the rules.”

Take the curious case of Buckhorn Flats, a captive-cervid operation in Portage County, Wis., consisting of a 59-acre hunting preserve and a smaller breeding facility. On September 4, 2002, a hunter paid $4,000 to shoot a captive buck, which tested positive for CWD. When state authorities tried to trace its history to see what other captive herds might have been exposed, they were stymied by its lack of a -state-mandated ear tag as well as inadequate record keeping by the preserve’s owner, Stanley Hall.

Hall, who did not respond to an interview request for this article, had a long history of trafficking captive deer. From 2000 to 2001 alone, he shipped at least 39 deer to seven other operations both across Wisconsin and out of state.

The state DNR involved 60 game wardens in tracing the trophy buck’s movement. Ultimately, Buckhorn Flats and a handful of other Wisconsin game farms were put under quarantine, and Hall was ordered to depopulate all his deer. He chose to appeal the ruling, as was his right, and the legal battle continued for the next three and a half years.

During this period, Wisconsin passed legislation requiring that all captive-cervid hunting preserves in the state needed a minimum of 80 acres. In the spring of 2005, the DNR notified Hall that his 59-acre facility no longer qualified and he had to stop hosting hunts as of that fall.

By December 2005, Hall and his lawyers came to an agreement with state and federal agriculture officials. Hall, who would receive indemnification payments from the state and federal government for each animal killed, told authorities he had around 80 does and yearlings in his breeding area, and 40 or so bucks in his hunting preserve.

On January 12, 2006, several days before the deer were to be put down, Hall notified the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) that someone had cut a hole in the preserve fence and baited the outside area. The DATCP closed the breech and alerted the DNR, which, concerned that dozens of exposed bucks had escaped into the wild, dispatched sharpshooters to the scene. They found none of the purported 40 bucks still inside the preserve—and no sign of them outside, either.

“We even sent a plane up to look for them,” says Preder. “One thing we didn’t find was a pile of deer running around on the landscape. So what happened to them?”

Whatever might have become of those valuable bucks, there were still the does and yearlings in Hall’s breeding pen. No hole had been cut in their fence. When the DATCP arrived for the scheduled cull several days later, they found three already dead and killed 76 more. When lab results came back, 60 of 79 deer tested positive.

According to their previously negotiated agreement, Hall was indemnified for his loss to the tune of $130,913, which worked out to a little over $1,700 per animal—a far cry from the $10,000 some hunters at Buckhorn Flats had said that they’d paid for trophy bucks.

Over a year after the mysterious hole in the fence appeared, the fate of the missing bucks is still uncertain. The local sheriff’s department and the DATCP initiated criminal investigations but thus far have come to no definitive conclusion.

Most everyone agrees that there was no mass escape into the woods. “These were pen-raised deer, dumber than a box of rocks,” says Preston. “It’s also one of the most heavily hunted areas in Wisconsin, and not one of them was seen during the rest of the season.”

The majority of those who’ve followed the case have a hypothesis. “The likeliest scenario is that these CWD-exposed bucks were sold and moved by horse trailer to other preserves,” says Preston, adding that a buck’s value as a trophy animal dwarfs even the most generous governmental buyout. “CWD is not being spread by law-abiding citizens—it’s being spread by these midnight cowboys who would sell their mother’s soul for a dollar.”

Indeed, when it comes to controlling the disease, the short-term financial interests of the few seem to trump the long-term conservation ethics of the many. Drastically culling herds within hot zones; outlawing baiting and backyard deer feeding nationwide; requiring high, double fences around all captive-cervid facilities; clamping down on the interstate transport of both live deer and harvested carcasses: All such tactics could make a real impact on the disease’s future course. But are any likely to become widely adopted?

Unfortunately, management strategies must be couched in “political and social realities, not biological ones,” says Preston. “That’s the world we live in. My commander in the National Guard always says, ‘The answer is money. Now what is your f---ing question?’ As long as there’s a market where somebody will pay $20,000 to shoot a piece of livestock in a pen, there will be bad things happening to wildlife.”

The Bureaucracy of Containment
The politics of deer management, both wild and captive, is a contentious and cumbersomely bureaucratic matter. If anything, the process seems designed to stall rather than foster constructive action. Were CWD to emerge as a threat to human health, federal authorities such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could step in to direct a unified national strategy to combat it. But as far as we know, CWD doesn’t threaten us. It threatens a species that a disconcerting number of nonhunting suburbanites have come to view as rats with hooves.

Any regulatory powers not granted to the federal government by the U.S. Constitution typically default to state and local authorities. Many, though not all, of the laws involving deer and other cervids thus fall under a patchwork of balkanized purviews. Sometimes, as in the case of West Virginia and its neighbors, adjacent states do attempt to coordinate their efforts. Just as often, however, a hodgepodge of different and sometimes contradictory regulations switch abruptly at state lines.

Further complicating the odds of an effective overall strategy is the wrangling within different state agencies. Deer and other game, historically speaking, have largely been the responsibility of natural resource agencies whose mission it is to manage, conserve, and otherwise provide stewardship to wildlife. As more evidence has linked the captive-cervid industry to CWD’s spread, many game farmers balked at what they considered to be costly DNR regulations designed to protect free-ranging deer. In many states, they lobbied successfully to have their deer reclassified from “wildlife” to “livestock.” This meant that deer in pens would fall under the control of state agriculture departments, whose mission includes the promotion of alternative agriculture.

“As soon as captive-cervid operators started feeling pressure from wildlife agencies to have, for instance, taller fences around their property and mandatory ear tags,” explains Preston, “they went and hid behind the skirt of the ag department. They did this purely to protect themselves from regulations they didn’t like. Face it: Nobody is going to pay $20,000 to shoot a deer with a 3-inch orange ear tag.”

When it comes to matters affecting multiple states, such as the interstate transport of deer, the federal government does play some role in cervid management. Similar philosophical differences—i.e., the stewardship of wildlife vs. agricultural commerce—are regularly debated before Congress. On one side is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, part of the $16 billion Interior Department. This agency serves as a kind of national-level DNR with a mission of “Conserving the Nature of America.” On the other side is the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), under the $96 billion Department of Agriculture. APHIS exists to “improve agricultural productivity and competitiveness and contribute to the national economy and the public health.” In terms of funding and influence, it hardly seems a fair match.

Dean Goeldner, a veterinarian and the APHIS program coordinator for CWD, acknowledges that his agency gets “the lion’s share of the federal budget for this disease.” The funds, he says, are targeted primarily at eliminating it from captive cervids but also at helping states address its spread in the wild.

Among other perks for the industry, APHIS shoulders the tab for laboratory testing of some 15,000 captive deer and elk per year. And it pays to depopulate affected captive herds, as well as to compensate operators for their loss. Goeldner denies that the industry has undue influence over his agency’s decisions. But not every interest group agrees.

Consider, for example, proposed regulations that APHIS began drafting in 2002 in the wake of the outbreak in Wisconsin. The idea was to create a nationwide “captive herd certification program” that would, among other provisions, spell out rules for the interstate movement of farmed deer, elk, and moose.

After consulting with various groups, from state wildlife authorities to deer farm lobbyists, APHIS published its final proposed rules last July—four years after the process started. These rules were slated to take effect on October 19. Almost immediately, however, there was an outcry. By early August, APHIS had received petitions from the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the National Assembly of State Animal Health Officials, and the U.S. Animal Health Association—demanding a review of what they believed was overly lenient treatment of the captive-cervid industry.

To entice game farmers into signing up for its voluntary herd certification program, APHIS proposed to allow them, after a period of surveillance, to move animals from state to state. Problem was, this was shorter than the incubation time necessary for CWD to become detectable.

Moreover, individual states could do nothing more to protect themselves from the unwanted importation of captive cervids. The APHIS guidelines would supersede any more restrictive state legislation.

APHIS recently solicited public comments as part of its review process, which—depending on the outcome—may wind up in federal court as a states’ rights issue. “Some states do want stricter standards than what we’re proposing,” says Goeldner. “But our lawyers are telling us that there has to be one national set of standards. That’s part of why we pulled back and plan to work with the states to sort this out.”

Meanwhile, in areas like West Virginia, where the ordeal with CWD has just begun, the prospect of further import and contamination keeps DNR officials like Paul Johansen up at night. “I don’t think that CWD just arose spontaneously in our state,” he says. “It was either brought here in a truck in the form of a captive animal, or it came in on an infected carcass.” To be sure, as federal agencies, private industry, local authorities, and legions of attorneys debate, CWD prions continue to slip quietly through wire fences and across state lines.


Russell Jackson

good story. its amazing that the WI DNR is forced to shell out $26M to combat CWD!!! thats $26M that could have gone to habitat or conservation. thanks for alerting us to this controversial topic. for the high fence profiteers who are contributing to the CWD problem, think about my hunting heritage and my kids future's hunting heritage...not about your money.

David Dittloff

Thanks for highlighting the issues related to CWD and game farms. In my mind their may be no greater problem for our cervid herds and the future of big game hunting in the country.

Preston Robertson

Great story. Canned "hunts" and the commercialization of game are a huge threat to the continuation of ethical hunting.

Richard Poor

Thanks to F&S for this comprehensive article on this serious problem. It's about time CWD is taken seriously. What if CWD evolved into a human disease? I believe Michigan still allows baiting, and even Indiana still has high fenced hunting.

Dixie Pride

Get a grip - these guys with the high fence operations - the legitimate operations - probably have healthier deer than the general population. They have a great deal of money tied up in these animals so of course they would be taken care of. They make sure the deer have plenty of food - not always for certain in the wild.

Those who are making such a fuss over these operations where people pay big bucks to kill big bucks are just jealous because they can't afford to do the same. I'm sure most of those who are "against" high fence hunting would jump at the chance if given a free hunt.

Paul Bunner

Outstanding story. I think it is interesting to note that we Sportsmen and tax payers who are opposed to "Canned Hunting" may very well be the ones who bail these unscrupulous facilities out, through negotiated settlements with the Court system or Governmental bodies.


Why has the TN Elk Restoration Project been such a failure?

Before one can start to analyze this problem, one first must recognize who the major players are. First and foremost is our State Wildlife Agency, TN Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA). TWRA is responsible for managing the wildlife in TN and in years past, several decades ago, they did a good job of restoring our wildlife but for the past decade or longer they have allowed our wildlife to get out of control causing millions of dollars worth of damage to farm crops, orchards, the environment and loss of life in vehicle accidents caused by an over population of deer and other wildlife. Some areas of our state have been surveyed to have 80 to 100 deer per square mile. A more acceptable number would be 15 to 20 deer per square mile so as you can see, TN desperately needs new leadership at the top levels of TWRA in order to better manage our state wildlife population. At the present time, TWRA has major financial problems due to poor management practices and risky ventures.

Another major player in the Elk Restoration Project is the TN Wildlife Federation (TWF). This is a conservation group headed by Michael Butler who is the Executive Director of the TWF. While TWF was once a respected and beneficial conservation organization, it has now lost support from some of its Corporate Sponsors due to the way they promoted the Elk Restoration Project in the use of unsafe and risky elk that did not meet all State and Federal import regulations in regard to disease issues and due to the way that they bashed TN Elk and Deer Ranchers and tried to blame them for the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) to the eastern United States when the facts actually show that no TN Elk or Deer Rancher has ever been connected to CWD in any way. TWF also needs new leadership at the top, someone who serves the best interest of the people and conservation of our state instead of someone who is trying to promote his own personal interest or the personal interest of a few of the other Board of Directors (BOD) of the TWF.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) is also a major player in the Elk Restoration Project. Since the beginning of the project in 2000, the RMEF has been involved in helping finance several different aspects of the project including the importation and transportation of the elk that were relocated to TN from Canada and KY. Because of the fear of importing diseases such as CWD, the RMEF has recently withdrawn their support for the movement of any elk but still offers financial support for other aspects of elk restoration. According to David Ledford, a RMEF representative in KY, the RMEF can not be party to the importation of unsafe and risky elk that might result in the importation of CWD or other diseases that would put TN's wildlife and livestock at risk. This decision was made because many of the wild herds are disease infected with such diseases as CWD, Tuberculosis (TB) and Brucellosis just to name a few. One only has to examine the health status and history of some of the wild herds like Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and Elk Island National Park (EINP) in Canada to realize the disease history and risk of these wild herds. None of these herds are suitable for restoration projects because of disease problems and the inadequate testing and monitoring of those diseases. Since the RMEF is dependant on donations to ensure their own survival, they could not assume the risk involved in importing and transporting these unsafe and risky elk that would jeopardize the health of TN's wildlife and livestock.

The TN Wildlife Resources Commission (TWRC) also plays a role in the Elk Restoration Project. The TWRC is a group of individuals, most of which are appointed by the Governor, whose sole purpose is to guide, direct and control TWRA so that they don't stray from their main objective which is to properly manage TN's wildlife. This truly is a flawed system in that the only requirement to becoming a TWRC is that you be a close friend or political supporter of the Governor. It appears that no wildlife management experience or knowledge of wildlife is necessary to become a Commissioner. It is impossible to effectively perform the job of guiding and directing a State Wildlife Agency when your only expertise is in raising funds for the election of the Governor.

According to TWRA and TWF records, 167 elk were released from December of 2000 to the spring of 2003. With the birth of calves, TWRA and TWF both projected to have well over 200 elk in the herd by the winter of 2003 and yet TWRA now estimates that in 2007 there are only a few over 200 or at most 250. According to a source close to TWRA that wishes to remain anonymous for obvious reasons, the herd does not even have 200 elk. That same anonymous source also claims that many of the deceased elk were not tested for disease after death as TWRA had agreed to do to satisfy concerns of disease possibly being in the herd. The elk herd should be at least triple in size to what it now is but for some reason, the herd is not growing as it should.

Why is the herd not growing? Elk are a very prolific species with a long life span. Elk were once native to TN so this is a natural environment for them. Was disease imported with these elk that were allowed to enter TN without meeting all of the State and Federal regulations in regard to disease issues? Why is TWRA not testing every elk that dies to determine why so many have died?

Needing to give the herd a boost, TWRA recently tried to import more unsafe and risky elk again from EINP in Canada and Land Between the Lakes (LBL) in KY but after the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was made aware that these two herds did not meet all of the Federal and State regulations for importation in regard to disease issues, the USDA denied TWRA's request for importation. TWRA refused to accept that and appealed the USDA decision base on the fact that TWRA had already spent over $100,000.00 in trapping the elk and getting them ready for transport and therefore should be allowed to import them even if it did put TN's wildlife and livestock at risk for disease but the USDA still held firm with their previous decision and denied TWRA's appeal.

Even after TWRA and TWF were reminded that these elk herds did not qualify for importation into TN or into the U.S., Michael Butler, the Executive Director of the TWF, made a public statement that they would in fact import these elk knowing that it would put TN's wildlife and livestock at risk for disease. It is hard to image why TWF, TWRA and TWRC think that the laws are for everyone except them. I expect that they will try this risky and unsafe elk importation again next year.

Several Elk Ranchers, around the Country, were willing to donate 30 elk to the Restoration Project. All of these elk met all of the State and Federal regulations for importation but TWRA refused the offer. It appears that while TWRA is willing to accept charity, they are not willing to accept charity from Elk Ranchers.

It is starting to look like TWRA's and TWF's only concerns about the elk restoration project is how much money they can generate from this project. While they should be concerned about restoring the species back to their natural habitat for the enjoyment of the people of this state, they have been consumed with trying to push legislation through that would allow TWRA to gamble away the elk herd through a lottery raffle scheme which would generate $50,000.00 to $100,000.00 per elk starting in the 2008 hunting season. These are TWRA's own figures based on the information provided them by the RMEF from how KY has done in their raffle scheme.

After the USDA denied TWRA's request for importation of these unsafe elk, there was such an uproar from the public that TWRA pulled their bill from the Legislators that would have, if passed, allowed TWRA to raffle off lottery tickets for the privilege to hunt these elk. It seems as though this would have been TWRA's answer to their financial problems but it was not to be. This is just another form of gambling and we certainly don't need that.

What does the future hold for TN's Elk Restoration Project?

submitted by,
David L. Autry


The author of this article forgot to mention that the captive deer referred to where CWD was first discovered, were deer held captive by the state wildlife agency in Colorado where research was being done and for almost 30 years, CWD was not found anywhere else except in the deer controlled by that state wildlife agency who spread CWD to Zoos and the private sector and even back into the wild.

That state Wildlife Agency should be held responsible for the billions of dollars worth of damage that they caused with their reckless actions over the past 40 years.

Today state wildlife agencies are still just as reckless as they were 40 years ago. TN Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) was recently caught trying to import elk for a restoration project that did not meet all State and Federal regulations for importation in regard to disease issues which would have jeopardized TN's wildlife and livestock.

It's time to hold these State Wildlife Agencies and the Conservation Groups like TN Wildlife Federation responsible for their reckless actions.


Last fall, I moved from an apt. in Lafayette, IN to 2.5 acres in the NE corner of WI. I never hunted, but this year purchased a widely encompassing conservation hunting license in WI. I am taking master gardener classes down in Green Bay. A recent class was devoted to backyard wildlife mgt.It was along the lines of "want 18 pheasant on your land, here's how to get them there" and how to get rid of unwanted animals. The powerpoint presentation included photos of clear-cutting swaths through forest areas to create habitat that didn't previously exist and the planting of food plots. At the end of the class, I asked about the problem of pet cats in the wild. Not 24 hour feral cats, but the 9-5 variety the neighbor puts out to fend for itself, taking down anything from grouse to songbirds to woodpeckers in this corner of the Northwoods while she's at work. Ignoring at first the question regarding cats, the speaker jumped on me for feeding any wildlife up here because "we don't want CWD to suddenly show up up there." I have backyard bird feeders which squirrels sometimes dump. I moved from an apartment complex which did not allow feeding birds at all. AFTER the hunting season ended, I fed the allowed amount of feed (deer corn or apples) on the ground under an apple tree the deer frequented all fall for apples. In the eyes of my classmates now, if CWD suddenly shows up up here, they will blame me, the transplant from IN. However, during his presentation, this wildlife mgt expert from the University of Wisconsin at Madison suggested as a mgt. practice the introduction of food plots in areas where these did not previously exist, to bring in deer to an area where they did not previously exist (presumably these well fed robust healthy deer will breed and produce additional deer where they did not previously exist.). At the same time, he stated that the state of WI has a stand against feeding wildlife. But he advocates establishing food plots where they didn't previously exist! I am of the opinion that anything man does to alter the environment like this, actually increases the deer herd, unnaturally. But I was told that what I was doing was baiting and that was what increased the herd creating an unnatural density causing CWD. Companies that sell forage seed mixes as well as the companies that make the specialty equipment for planting and tending these plots are encouraging creating mass plantings of forage plants that take these herds from spring through hunting season. Then this practice, which creates an artificially larger population, drops these additional animals like a stone as soon as hunting season ends and winter comes on in earnest. The small amount of feed I put out, on a very irregular basis in my backyard is not "bait" as it is put down after the season closes and generally only when there is intense cold and some snow cover. How, post-breeding season, is this backyard feeding creating a population larger than nature can support? Isn't that done from spring through the end of hunting season, when others are growing up a herd on food plots and then finishing them off with corn at hunting season, as my neighbor is doing? Do these deer not share spit in the food plots and at apple trees anyway, throughout the growing season? I've sat and watched how the state-allowed 1 gallon of feed on the ground (which most call "bait") disappears. Throughout the day, most is taken by small game such as rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, groundhog and by many birds, including ravens. By nightfall, very little is left for deer that aren't deterred by human activity. The bucks seem especially skittish in this high pressured hunting area. Why isn't the food plot pseudo-habitat creating practice under attack as is the grain(apple, cabbage, carrot, etc,) on the ground practice? As things started to warm up at the end of the winter, a television station in the Michigan U.P. (near me), mentioned that deer were beginning to move away from the feeding sites in favor of other food sources. That seemed very telling that, during the harshness of winter, they were depending on the feeding sites but actually preferred other sources. If feed on the ground is a cause of CWD, as the WI mgt. expert said in his talk, why are farmers not required to vacuum their fields after the grain harvester goes through? With all the money being spent to fight CWD, is there anything being done to try to cure it? Eradicate it? If it's persistent in soil, why is there no embargo on the transportation of field grown nursery stock with soil attached? Are we naive in assuming deer don't enter those fields or orchards? There's already an embargo against bringing firewood into the state because of the Emerald Ash Borer. How do you keep deer from licking the trunks of those nursery and orchard trees? I am against the placing of illegal mass quantities of bait, as in the splitting and dumping of a 50 lb bag of corn as this does keep deer in an area for a lot longer. I am categorically opposed to all canned hunts as silly and immature and am against commercial restaurant suppliers who do not submit to government testing of their herds. But in a situation where a person is legally limited to 1 gallon of what is commonly referred to as bait, as in WI, if that law were to be expanded to limiting the practice to a period starting after the close of the last deer hunting season through to the last day ice shanties are allowed on the ice, I feel that very few of the armchair hunters would even bother to put the feed out there in 30 below weather, let alone 45, when it can't be hunted over anyway. I feel that this limited amount of supplemental feeding is only going to help these animals winter over until their food plots come back. I am new to this issue, but when I am put up as an example of the cause of CWD, I have become irate.

Sean Bridges

This disease is horrific and it must be stopped. Never have I felt so angry at those who disobey the rules and so compelled to help fight a seemingly losing battle.

Sean Bridges

This disease is horrific and it must be stopped. Never have I felt so angry at those who disobey the rules and so compelled to help fight a seemingly losing battle.


That's too bad, I wish that the dumb Senators Diane Boxer and Barbara Feinstein wouldn't kill off the Santa Rosa Island elk, where they are CWD free, due to the fact that they live on an island, so in case the elk died off on the mainland, they could restore the population.

dennis parker

wyoming has a cwd problem and their never was a deer farm in that state .sheep, cattle and humans get the same diease.It's part of nature.

Terry S. Singeltary Sr.



Re: Colorado Surveillance Program for Chronic Wasting Disease
Transmission to Humans (TWO SUSPECT CASES)












"nothing ELSE matters, except beef from canada under 30 months bones beef
product, that's ALL THAT MATTERS!"


question for stan ;

is this a demonstrated threat to public health safety ?

stan states ;

yes i think they (prions) are bad to eat, and you can die from them.


MAD COW and what little ramifications there after, and to this day, nothing
has changed much, except more secrecy. ...TSS

022404 Senate Info-Hearing Agriculture / Water Resources / Health and Human
Services / Government Oversight: Mad Cow Disease

Entire 5 hour hearing - The California Channel

(scroll down to "022404 Senate Info-Hearing")



Mr. John B. Holstun

Thank you fopr the June 2007 article on CWD. Unfortunatly I found the article some what short of information. I did find most of what I was looking for in the web sight. I used to be with the federal veterenary service US Army, and we studied Mad Cow and CWD. You are right about eating contaminated meat from improper processing, also cooking does not kill the desease. What I did not find though was if any other animals have contracted the desease. Such as swine,bear,and other game animals. I live in TEXAS and your map shows no known contamination here, we do have a rather large game ranch population do you know of any agency that will give a straight answer about TEXAS game.

Terry S. Singeltary Sr.



Terry S. Singeltary Sr.
P.O. Box 42
Bacliff, Texas USA 77518



CJD VOICE (voice for _all_ victims of human TSE)



Thank you Autry! You took the words right out of my mouth.

Our Blogs