Disease could devastate herds, result in severe economic harm to sport industry, says agency
Emergency regulations have been announced that would prohibit the importation of deer into the state, that may be susceptible to Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).
The announcement was made Tuesday by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
The DEC cited the need to protect the state’s deer population, which is critical to a balanced ecosystem and state economy.
The recreational activity of hundreds of thousands of sportsmen and women contribute some $780 million in economic impact statewide, according to DEC.
CWD is a fatal, neurologic disease to species of deer that eventually destroys the brain tissue of infected animals.
“These emergency measures will help mitigate the risk of CWD taking a firm hold here in New York State,” said State Acting Agriculture Commissioner James B. Bays.
“From our agency’s perspective, the most important thing that we can do is limit the exposure of deer to CWD. That’s exactly what these regulations will do,” said Bays, who describes himself as a hunter and an avid outdoorsman.
DEC Commissioner Joe Martens agreed.
“New York State has a long tradition of deer hunting and deer management. It is imperative that we remain vigilant and prevent Chronic Wasting Disease from entering the State,” he said.
The emergency regulations provide a ban on imports of specific species between November 16, 2013 and August 1, 2018.
These species include Rocky Mountain elk, red deer, mule deer, black-tailed deer, white-tailed deer, sika deer, and moose.
Currently 21 states including New York prohibit the importation of live deer.
Importation bans are necessary because suspected animals can only be diagnosed when they are dead.
“CWD is extremely difficult to detect and control and once present, the costs to the wild deer population, captive deer owners, and the entire state are high,” said State Veterinarian, Dr. David Smith.
“That’s not a risk we’re willing to take here in New York,” he said.
CWD is caused by a disease agent called a prion, which is shed by infected animals in their saliva, feces and urine.
The time from infection to the first outward signs of illness (animals appear weak and unsteady) may be two years or longer.
Soil contaminated with CWD prions cannot be decontaminated and can remain as a source of CWD exposure to wild deer for years.
And the costs of states to deal with outbreaks in CWD in terms of resources and tax dollars are tremendous.
For example, in parts of Wisconsin 20 percent of herds have become affected by CWD, just 10 years after the disease’s introduction into the state.
And the cost to the state was $14 million the first year alone, with much of the money pulled from other wildlife programs.
So, the economic impact that CWD could have on New York State is considerable.
Based on the most recent data, New York’s wild deer herds have a $780.5 million economic impact in the state, while the economic impact of captive deer is $13.2 million.
There are an estimated 823,000 hunting licenses in New York, and the state ranks third in the nation in residential hunters.
In 2011, New York was fourth in the nation in spending by hunters and generated an estimated $290 million in state and local taxes.
“Chronic Wasting Disease is a serious threat to New York’s wild white-tailed deer herd,” Bruce L. Akey, executive director, Animal Health Diagnostic Center at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
“With recent confirmation of CWD in Pennsylvania, our disease specialists are very concerned,” he said.
A public hearing to discuss the emergency regulations has been scheduled for December 19 in Albany.