Monday, December 22, 2014

Kentucky moves to limit the import of hunter-killed Ohio deer

Kentucky is shutting the door part way on allowing hunters to bring back deer they have shot in Ohio.

The moves comes after Ohio discovered a captive deer herd in Holmes County contained a buck infected with chronic wasting disease. The World Class Whitetails of Ohio facility is a high-fence/big dollars hunting preserve that specializes in providing trophy bucks for paying clients.

World Class Whitetails of Ohio's infected buck came from Pennsylvania in an area where CWD previously was detected. It and several other captive-raised deer were imported into Ohio but the buck was the only animal that tested positive for CWD. 

A number of other businesses that opted out of killing their imported deer will have to have their facility monitored for several years in order to assure their deer and their property is free of CWD,

In the meantime, Ohio is going to great lengths to ramp up its efforts to monitor to see if the highly contagious disease has crossed over from the the hunting preserve to Holmes County's wild herd. The state has set up operations at various locations in Homes County where successful deer hunters have the opportunity to donate the heads of their animals for the purpose of CWD testing.

At present the use of brain matter and related parts is the only way scientists have of testing for CWD, a slow-acting disease largely believed caused by misshapen proteins called "prions" that somehow have the capacity to successfully engage other proteins even though they are not living organisms. Over time these prions create gaping holes in brain matter, hence the use of the term "spongiform" for CWD.

Though humans are capable of becoming a victim of the spongiform Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, there is no scientific evidence for and little support of that CWD will make the leap from such so-callec cervids as deer, elk and deer to humans. But scientists are among the world's more conservative and thus cautious experts.

Consequently they are not taking any chances whenever a CWD-infected animal is found anywhere and regardless of whether that individual has come from a captive breeder or hunting preserve or whether it was recovered from the wild.

Thus while CWD presents a known health risk to deer, Kentucky has adopted the not-without precedent step of insisting that hunters undertake precaution if they are bringing back deer they have shot in Ohio.

"Yes, Kentucky has been conservative with respect to CWD and live animal/carcass importation," said Scott Zody, chief of the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

"Since they have both deer and elk (which they invested a lot of resources to reintroduce) I can understand their concerns.  We are continuing to gather samples in Holmes County via hunter-harvested deer and road kill, and will be out in force to contact hunters during the muzzle-loader season."

 It is important to note that Kentucky's new regulatory efforts on the importation of deer and deer parts from Ohio are almost word-for-word identical to those taken by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Wildlife

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Game Resources' official announcement - said to have been sent or given to all Kentucky deer processors and taxidermists - reads:

"Hunters will no longer be able to bring the whole carcass of a deer killed in Ohio into Kentucky.

 "Researchers recently confirmed that a deer held in a northeastern Ohio captive hunting reserve tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD).

"CWD is a contagious and fatal neurological disease that affects deer, elk and other cervids native to North America. Currently, there is no evidence that CWD can be transmitted to humans. 

"Chronic wasting disease has been previously detected in other neighboring states including Missouri, Illinois, West Virginia and Virginia. Ohio joins 19 other states and two Canadian provinces where this disease has been found.

"Kentucky, which does not have the disease in its animals, prohibits the importation of whole carcasses or high-risk cervid parts such as the brain, spinal cord, eyes, lymphoid tissue from deer or elk killed in CWD–infected states and provinces.

"Hunters may bring back deboned meat, hindquarters, antlers attached to a clean skull plate, a clean skull, clean teeth, hides and finished taxidermy products. To help prevent the entry of CWD into the state, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources discourages hunters from bringing back high-risk parts of deer or elk taken in any state, regardless of CWD status.

"Several proactive steps have been taken by Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and captive cervid owners to prevent the introduction of the disease into the state. 

"Kentucky Fish and Wildlife monitors wild deer and elk herds while the Kentucky Department of Agriculture monitors the captive herds. Since 2002, Kentucky has tested more than 23,000 deer and elk for the presence of the disease. All results have been negative.

"Regulations enacted to reduce the likelihood of CWD in Kentucky have included a ban on importation of live cervids from CWD-positive states, mandatory CWD monitoring of captive herds and prohibiting the importation of high-risk carcass parts from CWD-positive states into Kentucky.

"This disease can persist in the environment and may be contracted from contaminated soil or vegetation or through contact with infected cervid parts. The movement of live animals, either through the captive deer trade or natural migration, is one of the greatest risk factors in spreading the disease to new areas." 

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Jeff is the retired News-Herald reporter who  covered the earth sciences, the area's three county park systems and the outdoors for the newspaper. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was the recipient of more than 100 state, regional and national journalism awards. He also is a columnist and features writer for the Ohio Outdoor News, which is published every other week and details the outdoors happenings in the state.

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