NEW ULM, Minnesota – Chronic wasting disease in deer isn’t just a bowhunting problem. When too many deer die, it affects entire ecosystems, impacting everything from plants to predator populations. Currently present in 23 states and in Canada, CWD is a problem that has frustrated wildlife experts, bowhunters – and foodies who love getting their meat from deer, elk and moose.
CWD, a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy that’s a cousin of “Mad Cow Disease,” is – experts think – transmitted by infectious proteins called prions. While there is a lack of science to support it, some suggest that deer scents – made with deer urine – could be a source of CWD transmission, if not carefully managed.
Enter the Archery Trade Association (ATA), which not only conducts the archery and bowhunting industry’s largest trade show, but also helps its industry to conduct business in a way that grows archery and bowhunting.
The ATA’s new Deer Protection Program seeks to ensure that ATA-member scent manufacturers and product suppliers do everything possible to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease in wild deer, elk and moose in the United States.
With help and advice from the nation’s top CWD experts and state wildlife agencies, the ATA spent the past two years working with its Scent Manufacturers and Urine Providers committee to self-impose protective restrictions on their products and the deer/elk facilities that provide urine for those products. The restrictions are designed to ensure urine-based scent products don’t contain the infectious prions that cause CWD. The restrictions meet or exceed rules already imposed by state and federal disease-management agencies like the USDA’s APHIS Herd Certification Program.
Scent manufacturers enrolled in the ATA program can display the ATA’s “Seal of Participation” label on scent products that originate from facilities participating in the program. “The seal demonstrates that the supplier and manufacturer are doing all they can to prevent CWD from harming our nation’s wild cervid populations,” said Mitch King, the ATA’s director of government relations.
King said the original list of participating scent manufacturers and urine-providing facilities represents about 95 percent of the deer/elk scent-based products used by hunters. The initial list included 16 manufacturers: American Outdoors Inc./Mrs. Doe Pee, Buck Baits LLC, Buck Bomb/Hunter’s Specialties, Buck Stop Lures, Black Widow Deer Lures LLC, Code Blue Scents, Conquest Scents, Doc’s Deer Scents, Indianhead Elk, Indianhead Whitetails Inc., Killbuck Scents, Martine’s Deer Scents, Nationwide Scents, Portland Outdoors/Top Secret Scents, Robinson Outdoor Products, Tink’s, and Wildlife Research Center Inc.
Another goal of the ATA Deer Protection Program is to increase CWD awareness among hunters. “A sad reality is that agencies dealing with CWD have struggled to engage widespread interest and concern among the nation’s hunters,” King said. “This program’s success will depend on hunters recognizing the ATA Seal of Participation when buying scent products. That’s why this program also includes marketing and outreach efforts about CWD to help hunters understand how their buying decisions and actions afield can help control CWD’s spread. We will encourage hunters to only buy and use scents carrying the ATA seal.”
Meanwhile, the number of scent manufacturers and urine providers is already growing, King said. Although the industry’s largest manufacturers and urine suppliers were on board from the start, smaller operations are enrolling as they learn of the program and hear how it operates. “We expect participation will keep growing,” King said. “Our hope is that the entire scent-manufacturing industry (including urine providers) will recognize the program’s importance in maintaining healthy wild herds of elk and deer for future hunters.”
The ATA program requires participating urine-producing facilities to follow these seven requirements by…
- Requiring participation in the USDA’s APHIS Herd Certification Program for all ATA-program participants, regardless of whether they transport live deer or elk across state lines. (Full participation in the federal program is “required” only for deer farms transporting live deer or elk across state lines.)
- Prohibiting the import of live deer or elk into participating facilities (beginning Dec. 31, 2016). (The federal program allows importing live deer or elk.)
- Requiring that all cervids transferred out of a participating facility be tested for CWD upon death. This restriction eliminates a facility’s ability to avoid testing by moving an animal to a nonparticipating facility. (The federal program allows facilities to transfer out live cervids.)
- Requiring participating facilities in the ATA program to undergo a 100 percent physical inspection every third year and at least a 20 percent physical inspection every year by an accredited veterinarian. (The federal program requires a 100 percent physical inspection every third year [related to TB and brucellosis certification] but does not require annual physical inspections.)
- Requiring that participating facilities undergo an annual inspection by an accredited veterinarian that includes a physical animal inspection (20 percent), a herd inventory review, and overall herd health and facility inspections (including fencing). (The federal program does not require this level of inspection.)
- Requiring that participating facilities be double-fenced along their perimeter if they’re within 30 miles of a confirmed CWD case in wild or captive deer or elk. (The federal program does not require double-fencing.)
- Establishing an oversight advisory group that will include industry and state wildlife agency representatives to help review the ATA program. (The federal program does not involve oversight by state wildlife agencies.)
Although some state regulatory programs impose greater restrictions on captive-cervid facilities than the federal program to address deficiencies noted above, state-by-state variability often reduces the confidence state wildlife agencies and wildlife-disease experts have in government regulatory programs. The ATA program eliminates this variability across state lines for the scent-manufacturing industry.
The ATA Deer Protection Program will be monitored by the ATA and an oversight advisory group that includes state wildlife agencies and, where available, state veterinary services.
“Everyone involved in this program knows how devastating CWD can be, and we want to ensure we do everything possible to prevent its spread,” King said. “This is the first program of its kind where an industry, with help from wildlife agencies and CWD experts, has united to say, ‘Let’s do something about this problem.’ Rather than complain, these companies and agencies are taking the first step in a long-term joint effort to control CWD.”
To learn more about the ATA Deer Protection Program, visit www.archerytrade.org/deerprotection.