It has been a whole year since the discovery of CWD, Chronic Wasting Disease, in Arkansas. While many have forgotten about or dismissed the disease, those of us in the hunting industry are still weary of the years to come. Those of you who hunt should be too. Hunting has a much larger enemy than CWD, which is lack of participation. CWD threatens an already dwindling herd of HUNTERS as well as deer. Millennials, currently totaling more than 80 million in the U.S., are aged 18-34. This generation is plagued by limited time and resources which presents a hindrance to hunting. The parents of this generation, having been through the great recession, have had limited time and resources to devote to passing the tradition along. This is shown through relatively low participation in hunting within the millennial population with only 5% participating in hunting in 2011. The primary reason the millennial generation hunts is what is most affected by CWD. Over 40% of millennial’s who hunt do so for the meat… This generation, of which I am a part of, is health conscious; and eating an all-natural diet without processed foods is the norm. Thus the great success of Whole Foods, farmers markets, and urban farming. Loss of hunters equals loss of dollars and votes for conservation and hunting rights. This could have a compounding effect on the future of hunting, which in turn could very much negatively impact the economy of Arkansas and the U.S. So we as hunters and conservationist have two enemies: CWD and loss of hunters to CWD.
Arkansas recently added Van Buren, County to the CWD management zone-in an attempt to further halt the spread of the prion. No infected deer were found in the county- it is just within a few miles of a positive elk finding in Searcy, County. Further research on the transference of CWD to other animals has been conducted, looking into what could happen (worst case scenario) if you eat a CWD infected animal. The report from The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has not yet been peer reviewed but focused on Macaques, monkeys genetically similar to humans. Some monkeys were injected with CWD prions directly into their brain and other subjects were feed infected meat. The infected meat that was feed to the Macaques, through a tube, consisted of infected brain matter, not something we as hunters would normally eat… So far 2 of the 18 animals have become infected with the prion by the direct brain injection and three have been infected by oral gavage feeding of infected brain matter or muscle tissue. Studies from The European Food Safety Authority and The Rocky Mountain Laboratory report very different results. Neither group has been able to infect macaques orally. In fact, “The European Food Safety Authority recently published a scientific opinion that stated that while there was no absolute barrier to transmission of CWD to humans, epidemiological studies of humans have not linked Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease to CWD.” However, all agencies say that further testing will be conducted. Though many observers try to compare CWD with “mad cow disease”, the diseases are distinctly different. Currently, there is no evidence that CWD poses a risk for humans; however, public health officials recommend that human exposure to the CWD infectious agent be avoided as they continue to evaluate any potential health risk. The World Health Organization has reviewed available scientific information and concluded that currently there is no evidence that CWD can be transmitted to humans. During the period 1997-1998, three cases of sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) occurred in the U.S. in young adults. These individuals had consumed venison. This led to speculation about possible transmission of CWD from deer or elk to humans. However, review of the clinical records and pathological studies of all three cases by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, did not find a causal link to CWD.
Nonetheless, health and wildlife officials advise caution. Hunters are encouraged not to consume meat from animals known to be infected. Hunters should take common sense precautions when field dressing and processing deer or elk taken in areas where CWD is found.
Please remember the very worst thing you could do for the deer is to quit hunting them. When an animal like the whitetail deer has commercial value then it is protected. The whitetail deer is the most sought after game species; generating billions of dollars of economic impact. Just like the animals of Africa, if the animal has no value then it is hunted to extinction. It is a sad truth that it all does come down to money, so again the worst thing for deer, deer research, and deer habitat is for you to not buy a license to hunt. So hunt, be careful and be cautious not to spread the disease. If you feel an animal you have taken could be infected contact the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. Check out the videos below on how to properly clean an animal to better avoid the CWD contaminated areas of the animal. You should wear gloves, and avoid the spinal column, lymph node glands, and brain. Please continue hunting so that our children’s children will be able to do so.
Field Dressing: https://youtu.be/cv2Hg2toxaE
Removing Meat from Bone: https://youtu.be/wPsa2FjyWE0