CONCORD, NH — New Hampshire’s white-tailed deer population once again showed no evidence of chronic wasting disease (CWD), based on monitoring data gathered during the 2017 hunting season.
The NH Fish and Game Department is asking hunters to do their part in the effort to keep the state CWD-free by not using natural urine-based deer lures and following state restrictions on importing carcasses from CWD-positive jurisdictions.
Chronic wasting disease is a neurological disorder that is always fatal to white-tailed deer, moose, mule deer, elk, and other exotic cervids (members of deer family). Currently it is not believed that CWD is transmissible to humans; however, hunters are still advised not to consume animals that may have CWD.
Deer Biologist Dan Bergeron recently received results from a federally certified veterinary diagnostic laboratory that indicate that all the deer tissue samples taken during the 2017 New Hampshire fall hunting season tested negative for CWD. In 2017, a total of 444 tissue samples from hunter-killed deer were tested by Fish and Game, with significant support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services in Concord. New Hampshire’s monitoring program is part of a nationwide effort to stop the spread of CWD. Since the monitoring program began in 2002, some 6,261 deer have been tested in New Hampshire.
Help our herd! See a map of CWD-positive jurisdictions, and find new web resources about how you can help keep New Hampshire CWD-free, at www.wildnh.com/wildlife/cwd.
Don’t Use Urine-Based Lures – Here’s Why
“While it is good news that New Hampshire remains CWD-free, we are asking hunters to help our herd by not using natural urine-based deer lures when hunting, because these products can potentially spread CWD,” said Bergeron. Fish and Game recommends that hunters instead choose from among the many effective synthetic lures available on the market today.
The heart of the problem is that CWD is transmitted by an abnormal protein, also known as a prion. These abnormal proteins are very stable and may persist in the environment for several years, posing a risk to animals that come into contact with them. While most hunters use small amounts of these lures, continued application can have cumulative effects over time.
Studies have shown these prions are found in nervous system tissue, lymph nodes, saliva, urine, and feces, among other places. Urine for natural lures is collected from captive deer facilities outside of New Hampshire, many of which are located in states where CWD is present. In many cases, urine is collected from animals held in pens over grates which collect a mixture of urine, feces and saliva; the liquid portion is then strained out.
“Deer urine is not a regulated industry or product, and these lures do not undergo any treatment that might inactivate or kill disease-causing agents,” said Bergeron. “Also, commercial lures are not tested for the presence of CWD prions.”
Because of these risk factors, Fish and Game strongly discourages the use of natural urine-based deer lures while hunting. Several states and Canadian provinces have already banned the use and possession of natural urine-based lures. Further, evidence suggests lures are not as effective as marketing campaigns would make hunters believe. A survey conducted by the Pennsylvania Game Commission found that hunters who used urine lures were no more successful in harvesting a deer than hunters who did not. A study from Austin State University found urine lures were no more effective at attracting deer than other non-hunting scents. The researchers put trail cameras on “mock deer scrapes” and monitored visitations by deer. They found no difference in the number of bucks that visited scrapes treated with urine lures versus those treated with human urine or new car scent. They concluded that the scrape was a visual attractant and the scent was merely a curiosity factor for the deer.
CWD Spreading Eastward
Chronic wasting disease was first identified in 1978 and remained isolated to Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska for about a decade. Since then, CWD has been found as far east as New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia, bringing the disease far closer to New Hampshire’s borders. To date, CWD has been detected in wild or captive deer in a total of 27 states and provinces. See a list and map of infected areas at www.wildnh.com/wildlife/cwd/.
Hunter-Killed Carcass Import Restrictions
In addition to monitoring and surveillance efforts, tight restrictions are in place regarding the transport of potentially infected animals, carcasses, or tissues.
Hunters who make hunting trips to CWD-positive jurisdictions are reminded that they must follow the mandatory regulations on bringing home deer, elk, or moose carcasses from CWD-positive jurisdictions to help keep New Hampshire CWD-free. You may legally bring back ONLY deboned meat, antlers, upper canine teeth, hides or capes with no part of the head attached, and finished taxidermy mounts. Antlers attached to skull caps or canine teeth must have all soft tissue removed.
In 2015, four of the samples tested in New Hampshire were taken from deer that were illegally brought into New Hampshire from a CWD-positive state. These deer were confiscated by law enforcement, and the individuals who brought them in were cited for a violation.
Bringing Home Deer from New York State
In light of New York State’s extensive sampling efforts, with no additional positive deer found since 2005, and its decision to decommission their CWD Containment Area, New Hampshire Fish and Game officials felt that there was minimal remaining risk that CWD was still present and now permits importation of whole deer from New York. However, regulations in Massachusetts and Vermont still prohibit the importation of deer carcasses from New York and these regulations include the transport of New York-killed deer carcasses through these states. New Hampshire hunters are warned that simply crossing these states with a deer carcass from New York remains a violation and could result in legal prosecution. As a consequence, New Hampshire Fish and Game recommends that hunters continue the past practice of deboning New York deer.