Group: Culling deer is right choice

National organization says targeted removal keeps CWD rate low

An official of a national wildlife conservation organization dedicated to ensuring the future of white-tailed deer says the Pennsylvania Game Commission is correct in its proposal to cull the area deer herd.

Kip Adams, director of conservation for the Quality Deer Management Association, said there’s not a lot of success stories in regard to chronic wasting disease management.

“I am first and foremost a hunter, I get it — we never want to have fewer deer around and certainly don’t like culling deer we may hunt,” he said.

Adams said he is a Pennsylvania native so he is close to the issue, but he also works in more than 20 states per year.

“I’ve seen agencies come up with good ideas that fail because they don’t effectively communicate the importance of those to public or the hunters,” he said. “I fully believe that happened here with the Pennsylvania Game Commission.”

Adams said the Game Commission is right about its plan for targeted removal.

“The reality of it is, the Game Commission is correct. Targeted removal of deer in that area has the best chance of protecting future interests of deer hunters in that area and the health of the deer herd. The best example we have is Illinois (in 2002). He said when CWD was found in Wisconsin and Illinois, both states began conducting targeted removals.

“Illinois held the rate of CWD low. Wisconsin stopped its targeted removal and the CWD rate skyrocketed,” he said.

“Targeted removal works and the reality is that’s what is best for you and all hunters statewide in the long run. Nothing good will come if CWD rates continue to increase. This (targeted removal) has shown to be the best strategy for impact to hunters and deer herd,” Adams said.

The Game Commission and a group of area hunters and landowners have been feuding over a proposal to use sharpshooters to kill off deer in Blair and Bedford counties to attempt to limit the spread of CWD.

The commission had planned to set up sites for deer to congregate and use U.S. Department of Agriculture sharpshooters to cull the herd earlier this year. But the plan was shelved for this year because the agencies couldn’t get enough permission from owners to enter their property.

Sportsmen for the Future, the group of hunters leading the charge against the Game Commission’s targeted removal plan, have issued statements and research that point out issues with the Game Commission’s numbers.

“The Game Commission presents the number of deer infected without taking into consideration the total number of deer tested. This information should be represented as “percent of deer that tested positive.”

In addition, the group cites studies that indicate CWD has little effect on population growth.

The average life expectancy of deer combined with the slow progression of the disease likely muted the effects of CWD on population growth, according to a peer-reviewed study published in the journal PLOS One, “Bayesian modeling of prion disease dynamics in mule deer.”

The group also cites studies that state CWD cannot spread to domestic cows.

In addition, Sportsmen for the Future President Matt Johnson of Roaring Spring said Pennsylvania cannot be compared to Illinois on the subject of targeted removal.

“Illinois is a completely different state. The terrain is completely different,” Johnson said, adding that CWD has been spreading, although slowly, in Illinois despite targeted removal.

“Illinois has not ever shot the number of deer the Pennsylvania Game Com­mission was going to (2,000-2,500),” he said.

“The Game Commission admits they will never stop it from spreading. They just hope they can slow it down, until science comes up with something (to stop CWD).”

The Game Commission released final results of CWD tests for 2018. There were 122 CWD positive specimens in the calendar year, up from 75 in 2017, continuing hefty increases from previous years.