Wednesday, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries issued an official news release recommending “deer hunters not utilize supplemental feeds as this increases the chance of spreading diseases among deer using bait stations, including chronic wasting disease (CWD). Instead, LDWF encourages hunters to focus on managing the native forage base on the land through prescribed fire, mechanical vegetation manipulation and application of appropriate fertilizers.”
CWD has not been detected in Louisiana. The disease was discovered in one dead deer a few miles from the Louisiana across the Mississippi River. Nobody even knows where it came from. LDWF sampled 300 deer within the Louisiana buffer zone including East Carroll, Madison and Tensas parishes. CWD was not detected in any of the sampled deer. Just this past June, LDWF lifted a suggested “no feeding” policy in those areas.
CWD is a neurodegenerative disease, which is 100 percent fatal and affects members of the family Cervidae, which includes white-tailed deer. The disease is caused by proteins called prions. Prions can be shed in saliva, urine, feces and decomposing carcasses. Infectious material can contaminate soil, becoming available for uptake by plants, increasing transmission to additional individuals when plants are consumed.
This is important. I have talked to deer experts, researched the internet and asked others and found that as far as we know, there are no cases of CWD being transferred to humans. It could happen. But it hasn’t.
Don’t get me wrong. I realize that CWD is a serious deal.
As this late date recommendation to not feed, with bow season underway and gun season weeks away? I’m sorry. I don’t understand the corporate LDWF approach to things north of I-10 the last few years (90% of the deer woods are in north Louisiana). If this is CWD CYA, I get it. But if it is supposed to make sense, it doesn’t. Normally, I would call someone and ask a few questions, but on this one, I’m just telling you what they said and giving you my knee-jerk two cents.
- I’m guessing a “bait station” is a deer feeder, corn or rice bran pile, or maybe salt or mineral blocks or other supplements like Delta Magic or C’Mere Deer. Deer spread CWD through saliva, urine and feces. The more deer visit a spot, like a “bait station”, the more of that they spread.
- But deer are going to eat and spread saliva, urine and feces somewhere. What about the edges of corn fields, soybean fields, food plots, bedding areas, etc.? What about oak flats with the ground covered in acorns? Deer are going there in bunches, too, leaving those things mentioned above.
- Managing the “native forage base”? For a large percentage of Louisiana hunters, that is pretty limited to what grows in and around a pine thicket. As for cutover areas that used to provide browse for years, most of those now get sprayed with herbicides. Natural forage is getting trampled and rooted up by an out-of-control feral hog population. In growing areas, you can add a foraging, overpopulation of black bears to that list, too.
- That brings us the next suggestion, prescribed burns. It’s way too late. There are already hunters in the woods. It would be a hazard and would wipe out what native forage base we have for this fall and winter. Most hunters lease their land, therefore have no right to burn on their hunting grounds.
- And then, there’s this. This last minute recommendation about the sale of “supplemental feeds’ for deer could devastate a huge business in Louisiana impacting manufacturers, sporting goods stores and hundreds of rural mom and pop stores that depend on deer season sales. We’ve already done away with Sportsman’s tax-free weekends in the race to substantially raise taxes so high that we can’t even see the fiscal cliff any more. But there are large numbers of state sales tax dollars at stake here, too. And a lot of those go to fund the LDWF.
I’ll stop now. Besides, that’s probably a whole nickel’s worth. Trying to keep CWD out of Louisiana is going to take some timely, common sense, realistic approaches with organized leadership and cooperation from many groups. I don’t want to harp on the I-10 thing too much, but seriously, if this involved red snapper or oysters or marsh duck hunting, we’d be seeing the cavalry, not just a news release from Baton Rouge.