Earlier this month, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board voted to advance a statewide ban of the use and sale of deer urine. The ban, which would take effect in 2016 if it passes state legislation, takes aim on reducing the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). A disease that has the potential to devastate the state’s deer herd.
Vermont currently has no confirmed cases of CWD. However, the disease is now found in twenty-three states and two Canadian provinces, including nearby Pennsylvania. The disease is 100 percent fatal in infected deer.
While some scientists and biologists disagree on how CWD spreads, most studies show it to be the cause of close contact with infected animals. Deer urine, feces, and saliva are considered among the greatest suspects of transmission. Often, deer infected may not show symptoms for years.
Retired Pennsylvania veterinarian, Dr. Walter Cottrell, presented this and other materials, studies and proof to the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board on April 22nd, which lead to the decision. Cottrell believes the disease can live in the soil for decades, similar to a disease found in sheep, still infectious 18 years after being deposited in the soil.
Dr. Cottrell explains, “Because of its long incubation period of months to years, when this disease arrives in a new place, it can potentially be there for a long time before it is detected. And once the disease is there, the genie is out of the bottle. Based on the experiences of the affected states and provinces it never leaves.”
Cottrell outlined to the board just how quickly the disease can spread. Using Wyoming as an example, where in 1997 just 12 percent of the mule deer population was infected by the disease. Today, some deer herds exhibit up to 50% infection rate in adult males.
Cottrell pitched his evidence to nearby Pennsylvania prior to his meeting with Vermont. Game officials there decided to ignore his findings, stating they didn’t want to limit manufacturers. Vermont is the first state to take action and undoubtedly not the last.
While natural deer urine would be banned upon a final vote, synthetic urines would still be legal for use by hunters.