Deer hunters in New York who use deer urine to lure their quarry might have to find an alternative if state wildlife biologists get their way.
Environment officials say that the deer urine can lead to the spread of chronic wasting disease, a sickness caused by an infectious proteins called prions. Chronic wasting disease is a deadly brain infection that’s affecting North American deer, elk and moose. These proposed regulations would put New York on the list of states and Canadian provinces that prohibit deer urine, ABC News reports.
The disease is similar to mad cow disease, and the infectious prions are shed in saliva, feces and urine. These can contaminate plants and soil that deer forage through.
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said,
Not only does this horrible disease kill animals slowly, but wild white-tailed deer hunting represents a $1.5 billion industry in the state.
The disease was first identified in mule deer in Colorado 50 years ago, and has slowly spread to 24 states and two provinces in Canada. States in the USA have spent millions of dollars trying to stop it, and Wisconsin even hired sharpshooters to snipe deer in infected areas.
The ban has been met with protests in deer hunters and farmers who sell urine, marketed under names like “Code Blue” and “Buck Bomb.” Hunters also dribble the deer urine on plants and cotton balls hanging near their tree stands.
Dave Vanderzee, president of the New York Deer Farmers Association who also operates a private hunting preserve, said, “When you’re bowhunting, you have to draw the deer in close. Attractant is the only way to do it in New York because you’re not allowed to have a bait pile.”
A state ban on using urine would cripple the captive deer industry, which has already suffered under strict regulations.
Dr. Nicholas Haley, a veterinary researcher at Midwestern University, said that the captive deer that produce urine collected by hunters are some of the healthiest animals in the country. It’s more likely that transmission of the infection is caused by deer meat brought in from infected areas.
Biologists, however, are of the opinion that research clearly shows there is a risk. Krysten Schuler, a Cornell University biologist who has been studying chronic wasting disease, said, “Until this product is proven safe, I don’t think hunters should risk contaminating their favorite hunting spot,” Schuler said. “We can’t put the genie back in the bottle once it gets out there.”