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New Research on Chronic Wasting Disease Released

New Research on Chronic Wasting Disease Released

February 13, 2009 New research funded by the Canadian Wildlife Federation shows that chronic wasting disease in wild and farmed deer and elk will likely spread across North America and there is little wildlife managers can do about it.

The report “Both Sides of the Fence: A Strategic Review of Chronic Wasting Disease Management Costs and Benefits” was prepared for the Canadian Wildlife Federation by Dr. Paul C. James, a research fellow from the Canadian Plains Research Center, University of Regina.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) of deer, elk (wapiti), and moose caused by unusual infectious agents known as prions. The disease was discovered in 1967 in mule deer at a wildlife research facility in northern Colorado and causes chronic weight loss that leads to death. There is no known relationship between CWD and any other TSE in wildlife or people.

“The Canadian Wildlife Federation encourages governments, agriculture and wildlife organizations to review the report and reassess their approaches to managing chronic wasting disease,” said Rick Bates, Executive Director of the Canadian Wildlife Federation. “This report provides a much needed full socio-economic analysis of the issue to better inform management choices by everyone involved.”

According to the report, despite the expenditure of millions of dollars fighting CWD, there is still much unknown about the disease, it has not been contained and it is now firmly established in the wild, so it will likely continue to spread. The Canadian Wildlife Federation funds research on a variety of issues related to wildlife and habitat to improve understanding and promote dialogue on conservation issues.

Please e-mail Canadian Wildlife Federation Conservation Researcher Leigh Edgar at [email protected] to obtain an electronic copy of the 25-page report.


About the Canadian Wildlife Federation: The Canadian Wildlife Federation is a national non-profit organization dedicated to fostering awareness and appreciation of our natural world. By spreading knowledge of human impacts on the environment, sponsoring research, promoting the sustainable use of natural resources, recommending changes to policy and co-operating with like-minded partners, CWF encourages a future in which Canadians can live in harmony with nature.

Contact: Rick Bates Executive Director, Canadian Wildlife Federation 306- 527-8959 [email protected]

Heather Robison Media Relations Officer, Canadian Wildlife Federation 306-550-4155 [email protected]

Canadian Wildlife Federation, 350 Michael Cowpland Drive, Kanata, Ontario K2M 2W1 (613) 599-9594


The following is a Research Summary for “Both Sides of the Fence: A Strategic Review of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Management Costs and Benefits.”

This analysis by Dr. Paul James, Research Fellow, Canadian Plains Research Centre, University of Regina, was funded by the Canadian Wildlife Federation. The views are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Canadian Wildlife Federation.

1. CWD is highly contagious, persistent, and mobile among both wild and farmed cervids and the ecosystem.

2. Despite these characteristics, CWD poses low (known) environmental, social, and economic risks.

3. Despite lost markets, the game farming industry is weathering the storm through the increasing demand for ‘shoot farms’.

4. Despite many millions of dollars spent, CWD continues to spread among both wild and farmed herds in North America.

5. The ‘fence’ (between wild and farmed herds) no longer exists

6. Time to re-evaluate CWD management strategies and policies?

7. Perhaps better to take an integrated ecosystem approach with increased levels of cooperation between the various players?

8. Perhaps approach CWD not as a traditional communicable disease, but as an environmental contaminant, like a chlorinated hydrocarbon (e.g. DDT)?

9. Should we do nothing? No…with prions, one can never say never….however, it would seem to make sense to reduce emphasis on eradication and containment of CWD and increase emphasis on surveillance and monitoring.

10. Further research? Yes, we need to increase the level of certainty about the risks that CWD poses; need more rapid testing of wild cervids, and a method for testing the ecosystem.

Other Research Findings by Dr. Paul James

CWD binds to certain soil particles and increases its infectivity by several hundred times…increased mobility?

The closely related scrapie can persist in the soil for at least 16 years. CWD likely does too.

Research Risk Assessment Findings by Dr. Paul James

Does CWD Pose a Risk to Other Species of Wildlife? Low Known Risk

Does CWD Pose a Risk to Other Species of Livestock? Low Known Risk

Does CWD Pose a Risk to Human Health? Low Known Risk

Monday, February 09, 2009

Exotic Meats USA Announces Urgent Statewide Recall of Elk Tenderloin Because It May Contain Meat Derived From An Elk Confirmed To Have CWD

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Research Project: Detection of TSE Agents in Livestock, Wildlife, Agricultural Products, and the Environment Location: 2008 Annual Report