Friday, March 07, 2008

ALBERTA NEWS: Opposition to CWD Cull

A rising body count has fuelled protests by Provost-area residents against a government deer cull designed to stop the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD).

The latest pictures, snapped Feb. 28 16 km north of Provost (292 km southeast of Edmonton) by Duane Morrell, a member of the Provost and District Fish and Game Association, show the grim reality of the systematic killing.

Bloody deer carcasses litter the snow-covered fields. A helicopter carries the bodies, dangling by cables, to an eight-metre deep pit.

Their heads removed for testing, but their meat and hides unharvested, scores of deer are stacked up along the bottom of the trench.

"After following the helicopter around and witnessing the amount of deer harvested on the 28th, there is no possible way that the deer could be processed in the four-hour time period allowed by the government, leading to the disposal of mass quantities of meat that any hunter would face charges for," Morrell said.

Dave Schmidt explained that association members consider the cull to be overkill - taking a high number of animals for the number of deer testing positive for the disease - and resent the province's methods and the cost of the cull.

But he adds that a protest campaign targeting the current minister of Sustainable Resource Development, Ted Morton, is helping publicize their concerns.

"We're just trying to offer ways and means of doing what they're doing," he said. "But legally and hunteresque-ly and, of course, with all of the meat getting used."

While Morton was unavailable to comment yesterday, in a letter in the Provost News last month he described the cull as a tough but necessary measure to stop the spread of CWD from Saskatchewan.

"Once the program and the testing of the animals are completed, we plan to hold public open houses to share the results of this effort," he said.

Department spokesman Darcy Whiteside said the cull has turned up three positive cases of CWD this year, with seven pending.

And while he couldn't give a total of deer killed, he said some two-thirds of the meat and hides are harvested.


MICHIGAN NEWS: Bovine TB Found In Deer Beyond Containment Zone

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has confirmed that a deer harvested late in the hunting season last year in Shiawassee County, just north of Livingston County, tested positive for bovine tuberculosis.

Whether that indicates the disease has spread to this part of the state is unclear, although DNR veterinarian Dan O'Brien said such cases rarely occur in isolation.

To determine that, the DNR will test all cattle herds within a 10-mile radius of where the Shiawassee County deer was found, as well as other deer in the area. The cattle tests should be complete within six months. Animals that the tests indicate may have TB will have to be killed for further testing. The majority of deer tests will be performed during the fall hunting season.

Originally a cattle disease, bovine tuberculosis is one of three types of TB, according to the DNR's Web site. The bovine strain can infect most mammals, though transmission to humans is rare.

The DNR has known about bovine TB infections in the Michigan deer population for more than a decade, O'Brien said. Since the disease was found in wild deer in 1994, the DNR has conducted a program to control or eradicate the disease. The core area where bovine TB cases have been found is in the northeastern Lower Peninsula counties of Montmorency, Alpena, Oscoda and Alcona. Animals have tested positive for bovine TB in Antrim, Crawford, Emmet, Iosco, Mecosta, Osceola, Otsego, Presque Isle and Roscommon counties.

The TB-positive deer killed near Owosso in December more than 100 miles south of the area known as Michigan's "TB Zone."

It is too early to know whether the infection has spread.

"We'll certainly know more once we complete our surveillance testing," O'Brien said. He said it is possible the deer may have been brought to the county from the northeastern part of the state by a person.

Tuberculosis in deer is a concern for farmers as well as hunters. Once infected, deer can spread the disease to previously uninfected cattle. A bovine TB infection in a cattle herd can affect a farmer's ability to sell the cattle.

The DNR does not recommend eating animals that show signs of tuberculosis. Hunters should look for abscesses inside the rib cage or on lung tissue as a sign of TB when they field-dress their deer.

Because animals in the early stages of a TB infection do not display symptoms visible to the naked eye, thoroughly cooking meat to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit is the best way to kill the bacteria.

"Anybody who's adequately cooked their meat shouldn't have any problems," O'Brien said.

Hunters who believe they may have found a deer infected with TB should call the Department of Agriculture at (517) 336-5030. Those who wish to have their deer tested for TB during hunting season can drop their deer's heads off at an DNR check station.

To reduce the risk of TB infection while harvesting deer, O'Brien recommends hunters wear rubber gloves when gutting deer. One of the biggest risks of bovine TB infection for hunters is cutting themselves while processing their deer.

If you believe you may have been exposed to bovine TB or cut yourself while harvesting your deer, O'Brien recommends consulting a physician.


INDIANA NEWS: A Near-Record Deer Havest in 2007

A viral disease reportedly affecting white-tailed deer appeared to have a minimal impact on the 2007 hunting seasons in Indiana, the Department of Natural Resources said.

According to a statement released today, hunters harvested 124,427 deer, compared to 125,381, a decrease of less than 1 percent.

“The big thing for me was that number,” said Chad Stewart, deer research biologist for the DNR. “We were guessing the harvest was going to be down a lot more than it was this year.”

A widespread outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD), a viral disease transmitted by biting flies, led researchers to expect a significant drop year over year. Instead, the statement said, hunters recorded the third-best season on record in 2007 and were within 1,000 deer of the all-time mark of 125,526 set in 2005.

“That’s not to say (EHD) didn’t affect harvests in some parts of the state,” Stewart said. “The southwestern part of the state had a noticeable drop in harvest level, but that seems to have been made up elsewhere in the state.”

The central and west-central parts of Indiana both recorded good numbers. “Where EHD affected counties like Clay, Fountain, Parke, Putnam, Sullivan, and Vermillion in 2006, (numbers) all bounced back in a big way in 2007,” Stewart said. “In most cases, antlered harvests were up to 2005 levels.”

That’s potentially good news for counties like Crawford, Daviess, Dubois, Martin, Pike, Spencer, and Crawford, where harvest levels dropped at least 20 percent from 2006, Stewart said, since deer which survive EHD exhibit an immune response that can be passed on to their young, providing protection if the disease occurs in the next year.

Other highlights of the 2007 season include hunters’ success in harvesting female deer in the latter part of the firearms season and the muzzleloader season, which Stewart said plays an important role in controlling deer populations.

“Antlerless deer are shot at a two-to-one margin over the last nine days of the firearms season, and 80 percent of the harvest during the muzzleloader season is antlerless, with the majority of those being does,” Stewart said. “Without those efforts, the deer herds in some areas could rise dramatically.”

A total of 1,275 deer were harvested in Porter County last year: 530 antlered and 745 antlerless.