If we had the chance to help a human or animal, why should not we? If we knew the situation could get worse – in some cases even worse – why not then do what we could do now rather than wait? These thoughts came to mind when I read an article in Read a recent issue of the Portland Press Herald, where the headline "Warning of chronic, consumptive disease, raises the fear of hunting".
What struck me was the following quote from the Deer Biologist of the Maine Domestic Fisheries Department, who said that "his greatest fear of chronically wasted diseases is the tribute she might suffer in the hunt – especially in view of the recent efforts of the state to do more Recruit hunters. " The record of chronic wasteful diseases spreads easily from stag to stag and finally kills every infected animal. There is no treatment, no vaccine, no cure. This incredibly devastating disease now occurs in 25 states and four Canadian provinces, most recently in Quebec, less than 100 miles from the Vermont border.
I would have thought that the main concern of the DIFW biologist would have been the suffering and death of the animals who might contract CWD. Instead, as a paid employee of an agency whose revenues stem to a large extent from the sale of hunting licenses, he focuses on the potential drop in hunters and thus on the fees the DIFW will pay for the privilege. The article also quotes the biologist as saying, "To ensure that hunting license sales remain at least up-to-date, the DIFW recently hired a full-time officer to recruit more hunters in Maine – a move that will lead to was first taken. " I think that the money spent on recruiting new hunters is more focused on researching and preventing CWD with the hope of someday finding a cure.
What is being done in the meantime?
Of course, there is no way to move deer from Canada to Maine alone, but there is a ban on transporting cadavers into the state, although the MDIFW biologist does not guarantee that it will be effective. Other precautions hold more promise. One of them is to stop the use of deer baits or fragrances. Since the disease can be introduced into the soil for years before a deer herd is infected, it is imperative that baits or fragrances are no longer available in Maine. In fact, seven states, including Vermont and four Canadian provinces, are banning the use of wild-baits, while others recommend not using them.
Another problem is that feeding deer that may have been exposed to CWD can be just as dangerous as a person with a highly contagious disease that exposes a group of their fellow human beings to a health risk that is always fatal. DIFW has recently asked hunters on its website not to feed roe deer or use wild bait or odors. The possibility of a fatal disease, combined with its potential spread through contact with food or lures, can lead to fatal consequences. A DIFW spokesman said the department had begun the rulemaking process to ban both practices, but both would not be an emergency rule.
Why not, one asks? Would not it be more effective to solve this problem before it becomes an emergency? The DIFW commissioner writes, "Chronic wasting of disease is the gravest threat our deer and moose face in modern times" and could "destroy the hunting and wildlife economy of Maine." Note that the focus is again on the possible financial consequences and not on the animals themselves – a curious reversal of the priorities for an agency whose mission statement states firstly, "that it protects and protects Maine fish and wildlife and their habitats managed ".
Preventing the feeding of deer may not be enforceable. and easy to recommend that deer baits are not used is a step that does not go far enough. Voluntary compliance with this potential threat to the state's wildlife is not enough. It needs nothing less than the power of the law.
To quote from the department's own newsletter, "Without action from hunters and state and provincial fisheries and wildlife authorities, CWD will continue to spread. Without control, CWD will cause irreparable damage to deer herds throughout New England, including Maine. "
If we take this action – and since the Hirschwaffensaison has already begun, plus 28 percent more deer, we may do so now.
Don Loprieno is a published author from Bristol, who has a lifetime of history and education. A board member of the Maine Friends of Animals and the Humane Society of the Boothbay Region, he has been a longtime supporter of the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society of Lewiston and the Humane Society of Knox County, Thomaston.