Legislation Will Invest in Effort to Fight Fatal Disease Afflicting Deer, Moose, Elk

Washington, DC — Two bills introduced today, in the U.S. House of Representatives (by Reps. Ron Kind and Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin) and U.S. Senate (by Sen. Jon Tester of Montana), will help address chronic wasting disease – a debilitating and always-fatal neurological disease in deer, moose and elk that threatens the nation’s big-game populations and hunting opportunities. Chronic wasting disease is contagious and leaves animals uncoordinated and emaciated before it kills them. To date, the disease has been confirmed in 26 states, and it has spread among herds from the Rocky Mountains to the Midwest to the Northeast.

“Chronic Wasting Disease is a clear and present danger to North America’s deer, elk, and moose herds, and the hunters and communities that depend on them,” said Mike Leahy, director of Wildlife, Hunting and Fishing Policy for the National Wildlife Federation. “But even though the disease has continued to spread, there’s been a lack of urgency in our federal leadership. That promises to change, with these plans to provide states and tribes the support required to respond to this critical threat to America’s wildlife.”

“Chronic Wasting Disease is a threat to Montana’s big game, our hunting opportunity, and ultimately our outdoor economy,” said Dave Chadwick, executive director of the Montana Wildlife Federation. “Senator Tester’s bill will marshal the resources that our wildlife managers need to fully understand this disease and rapidly respond to outbreaks.”

“The funding and help with research outlined in the legislation by Representatives Kind and Sensenbrenner would give the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources the kind of support it needs as it grapples with the spread of chronic wasting disease in the state,” said George Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation. “Wisconsin’s deer herds are critically important to the state’s more than 600,000 gun hunters and 225,000 bow hunters. They represent an estimated $1 billion in annual economic benefits for the state.”

Investing in state and tribal resources to help local officials grapple with the spread of chronic wasting disease in their region acknowledges the billions of dollars in annual economic benefits that flow from hunting into local communities. Stopping the disease from spreading will be critical to protecting wildlife, because once established in a new area, it’s extremely difficult to control.

Chronic wasting disease is in the same family of diseases as scrapie in sheep and goats, “mad cow disease,” and even several rare human diseases such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. There is no known cure for the disease and much is still unknown regarding how it is transmitted.

The National Wildlife Federation’s state and territorial affiliates have approved a resolution calling for the creation of a national wildlife disease fund to help states with rapid response to disease outbreaks.

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