The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission on Monday authorized the Director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to take reasonable steps to respond to future developments related to chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Oklahoma.
The authorization by a vote of 5-1 also instructed Director J.D. Strong to bring any such actions to the attention of the Commission as soon as possible after any actions are taken.
CWD is a fatal neurological disease that affects the brains of elk, deer and other cervid species. No vaccine or treatment for the disease exists. Importantly, no health risk to humans or non-cervid livestock has been documented.
In late April, an elk from a farmed herd in Lincoln County tested positive for CWD.
Strong emphasized that any CWD response related to farmed cervids, cervid breeding facilities or the import and export of farmed cervids is under the jurisdiction of the state Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. The Wildlife Department is responsible for managing the wild cervid populations and overseeing cervid hunting facilities.
Strong said the Wildlife Department’s goal is not to make any hasty, large-scale decisions right away in dealing with the threat of CWD, but to take a measured, scientific approach and collect all the information possible before deciding how to best respond to any possible confirmed cases in wild cervids.
He stressed the need for a team approach and expressed his continued willingness to work with the various stakeholder groups in finalizing a CWD action plan.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about hunting,” Strong said, whether CWD strikes farmed cervids or wild cervids. “One of the best ways is to enlist the help of hunters” in a strategy to minimize the spread of CWD.