A deer affliction in the same family as mad cow disease may change the way that hunters choose which animals to shoot.
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been found in 11 free-ranging Michigan deer and has the potential to affect humans, USA Today reports. The Spokesman-Review notes that the disease has also been detected in 23 states and two Canadian provinces.
The disease has mostly been found in younger deer, which stands at odds with the modern generation's adage for hunting: "Let them go and let them grow."
USA Today explains that hunters generally prefer to shoot older deer who have more meat on their bones. Antler-point restrictions (APRs) have been placed on shooting younger deer to allow them to mature.
"In 2004 we initiated APRs in 29 counties," said Missouri Wildlife Division Chief Jason Sumners. "It became the most popular regulation we had in those areas, because within three years, they were seeing larger deer. Seventy-five to 80 percent of hunters liked it. That's a good day when you can get that many hunters to agree on anything."
Now that multiple cases of CWD have been found in deer populations, APRs could prolong diseased animals' ability to spread it through saliva, feces and urine.
"We found CWD in 2010 in captive facilities and then in free-ranging deer," said Sumners. "We knew we had to change our approach."
CWD cannot be purged through cooking or through antibiotics. It can remain in the environment for years and can adapt to other organisms over time, including humans.
Hunters showed a willingness to adapt when APRs were rescinded in counties with diseased deer. Sumners was surprised at the support the new policies received.
"We compared hunter attitudes between those that have the APRs versus those that are part of CWD management zone where younger deer are targeted," he said. "Hunter satisfaction ratings of our deer management were identical."
Meanwhile, other states are preparing to deal with the disease. Idaho and Washington haven't had any reports of the disease so far, but are likely to experience it, The Spokesman-Review reports.
"We discussed our contingency for dealing with CWD at our meeting last week," said Brad Corkill, an Idaho Fish and Game Commissioner. "Our discussion is no longer about 'if' CWD makes it to Idaho, it’s about 'when.'"
Idaho doesn't yet have any restrictions on importing game from other states, but Washington forbids hunters to bring in carcasses from CWD-positive states.
Sources: USA Today, The Spokesman-Review / Featured Image: U.S. Department of Agriculture Photo by Scott Bauer / Embedded Images: Pxhere, Good Free Photos