Leaders Need Public Support to Track CWD

Leaders Need Public Support to Track CWD

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is nearly impossible to kill in the deer that are affected by it. But government agencies in some regions of North America are fighting a battle of public perception in their very ability to track the disease. “It’s been accepted that eradication is difficult, if not impossible,” said Katherine Mehl, an ecologist with the fish and wildlife branch of the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment. Mehl is responsible for a CWD program that no longer exists. The government of Saskatchewan stopped their surveillance program in the fall of 2013 due in large part to a lack of participation from Saskatchewan hunters, who were asked to turn in deer heads for sampling and testing. “The sample sizes were declining. Overall it started off with quite a few samples,” she said. CWD is sometimes referred to as a prion disease, which would put it in the same category as the mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) and scrapie. Prion diseases act more like infectious proteins than other disease transmitters like viruses, fungi or bacteria. Prions mostly affect the brain and are almost always fatal in mammals. The disease is currently known to affect members of the deer family like elk (Cervus canadensis), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), moose (Alces alces) and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Mehl said that the program she worked on also attempted to reduce the spread of infection by reducing concentrations of wild deer. They offered more hunting licenses under certain conditions and in certain areas where the disease was known to be prevalent on the conditions that hunters sent them deer heads to test for...
Captive Wildlife: A Predictable Biological and Commercial Failure

Captive Wildlife: A Predictable Biological and Commercial Failure

by Darrel Rowledge (Preventive Safety Research Inc. Calgary) Wise observers have repeatedly warned of emerging challenges to our species and the biosphere that sustains it. Examples include Ronald Wright’s A Short History of Progress and Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. Some view current threats as so overwhelming as to be unsolvable. Yet the issues are no more complex than many of our disciplines; and we face complicated, life-and-death challenges every day. We’ve split atoms and built super computers that will fit in a pocket. Well-trained airline pilots use a rigorous checklist before takeoff to minimize the risk of disaster. Doctors are well educated and employ comprehensive diagnoses and rigorous follow-up… But if we have the capacity to understand, and the tools avoid pending threats, why are we failing? The simplified answer is that many of the factors causing the challenges (like short term greed) also afflict our electoral and legislative decision processes. Consider the effect: where the career performance of a pilot or doctor can affect tens or even hundreds of thousands of lives, in many instances policy decisions affect tens or hundreds of millions. Yet our legislators often have little training in policy analysis, and their decision processes are increasingly sketchy, seriously lacking in due diligence, and are often conducted behind closed doors. One example is the policy recently threatening North American wildlife, through initiatives to farm and exploit ‘captive wildlife’ for private profit. Wildlife was long established as a public resource, a vital “public systems asset,” and the core of one of the world’s greatest known examples of sustainable development. Schemes to...
Prion Conference – New Findings on CWD

Prion Conference – New Findings on CWD

A FEW FINDINGS: To our knowledge, this is the first established experimental model of CWD in TgSB3985. We found evidence for co-existence or divergence of two CWD strains adapted to Tga20 mice and their replication in TgSB3985 mice. Finally, we observed phenotypic differences between cervid-derived CWD and CWD/Tg20 strains upon propagation in TgSB3985 mice. Further studies are underway to characterize these strains. We conclude that TSE infectivity is likely to survive burial for long time periods with minimal loss of infectivity and limited movement from the original burial site. However PMCA results have shown that there is the potential for rainwater to elute TSE related material from soil which could lead to the contamination of a wider area. These experiments reinforce the importance of risk assessment when disposing of TSE risk materials. The results show that even highly diluted PrPSc can bind efficiently to polypropylene, stainless steel, glass, wood and stone and propagate the conversion of normal prion protein. For in vivo experiments, hamsters were ic injected with implants incubated in 1% 263K-infected brain homogenate. Hamsters, inoculated with 263K-contaminated implants of all groups, developed typical signs of prion disease, whereas control animals inoculated with non-contaminated materials did not. Our data establish that meadow voles are permissive to CWD via peripheral exposure route, suggesting they could serve as an environmental reservoir for CWD. Additionally, our data are consistent with the hypothesis that at least two strains of CWD circulate in naturally-infected cervid populations and provide evidence that meadow voles are a useful tool for CWD strain typing. Conclusion. CWD prions are shed in saliva and urine of infected deer as...
CWD – The Conservation Fight of Our Lives

CWD – The Conservation Fight of Our Lives

“That’s the disturbing part. We don’t seem to learn. We Chickens have come home to roost. Again. We behave as if actions don’t have consequences, even though the whole coming home to roost thing, is a long-accepted warning against reckless behaviour. So here we are, constructing a call to arms for what will almost certainly be the conservation fight of our lives…against an ominous, self-inflicted threat.” ~ Alberta Outdoorsmen   Before diving in, note that it’s not so much the proverbial chickens we’re worried about, as it is their little passengers, like H1N1, a virus with an informative history. H1N1 is the strain of influenza that, so far this season, has infected several thousand Canadians, hospitalized hundreds, and killed at least sixty—mostly strong, healthy adults. It used to be centuries, or generations between such outbreaks, but it’s a mere handful of years since the 2009 H1N1 epidemic that killed 428 Canadians, along with almost 300,000 people world-wide. These, however, pale in comparison to this virus’ maiden attack. The great flu epidemic of 1918 killed more people in twenty-five weeks than AIDS has in twenty-five years! H1N1 first emerged on chicken farms, jumped to people, went from us to pigs, then back to people. Or, it may have gone from chickens directly to pigs, and then to us… that jury’s still out. Either way, intensive conditions allowed it to evolve, become transferable, highly contagious, and quite lethal. This highlights two fundamental facts: 1) Most of our infectious diseases and epidemics come from animals. 2) The role of domestication is profound – we have basically created most of the infectious diseases...
A Growing Threat

A Growing Threat

HOW DEER BREEDING COULD PUT PUBLIC TRUST WILDLIFE AT RISK By James E. Miller Professor Emeritus, Mississippi State University A recent news story in Iowa’s The Gazette began: “Iowa’s first seven cases of chronic wasting disease—all directly related to confined white-tailed deer—have put a bull’s eye on the backs of the state’s deer breeders and the pay-to-shoot facilities they supply” (The Gazette 2012). Less than one month later, Pennsylvania confirmed its first case of CWD, which was traced to a deer farm in Adams County (The Sentinel 2012). And in Indiana, an October 19 news report noted concerns about the spread of CWD after 20 deer escaped from a farm that was breeding trophy bucks for fenced-in private hunting preserves (Indystar.com 2012). That article quoted Indiana’s DNR spokesman as saying the case “underscores the concern many have about how the commercialization of wildlife and interstate trafficking in wildlife presents a Pandora’s Box, with the potential spread of a deadly disease that does have some wide-ranging consequences.” Wide-ranging consequences indeed. The spread of chronic wasting disease from captive deer populations is only one of many potential problems related to the commercialization of Public Trust Wildlife (PTW) resources. Under the guise of promoting “economic development,” thousands of for-profit deer-breeding and canned-shooting operations have proliferated across the nation. Their proponents are aggressively promoting legislation to expand the industry—a trend that has snowballed since 2007. All wildlife professionals who care about wildlife resources should take note—and take action. Such legislation has the potential to shift authority for PTW resources, specifically captive white-tailed deer, away from state fish and wildlife agencies to departments of...
We’re Losing This Game

We’re Losing This Game

Farming deer and elk spreads diseases that could devastate wild populations and threaten humans, say wildlife experts… By Darrel Rowledge, Valerius Geist and Jim Fulton Originally in the Globe and Mail For more than two years, Alberta game farmers have mounted an intensive lobby to legalize one of their primary markets—penned shooting operations. The Alberta government had largely refused comment, despite its long promotion of the industry. That ended this month when Premier Ralph Klein said: “I find it abhorrent . . . I just find it inhumane to have elk or wild animals penned and then people being allowed to shoot them.” Premier Klein’s revulsion at the concept of “Bambi in a barrel” may have been news, but it misses the real issue, the potentially devastating effect of game farms on wildlife. Similarly, Korea’s ban on velvet antler imports because of CWD (chronic wasting disease) on North American game farms was grim news to the industry. Velvet, sold as an aphrodisiac and traditional remedy, is game farming’s other main product. CWD was later confirmed in elk imported into Korea from Saskatchewan, reinforcing the legitimacy of their concern. CWD is a sister disease to mad-cow disease, and this family of TSEs (transmissible spongiform encephalopathies) are chronic, untestable, untreatable and always fatal. Chronic wasting disease has now been confirmed on game farms across North America. The costs of the epidemic are into the hundreds of millions and climbing. More important, the disease has not been contained and is spreading to wildlife. In fact, our wildlife is facing its greatest crisis in decades. Any hope of solving it means focusing on...