Neither Sen. Hall, D-Wyoming nor Sen. Miller D-Greenbrier are representing the views of the vast majority of West Virginia’s 400,000 deer hunters on the “deer farming” issue. Most West Virginia deer hunters are strongly opposed to shifting the authority and regulation of deer farms from the Division of Natural Resources to the Department of Agriculture which in all probability would result in relaxation of the regulations on “deer farms” and further jeopardize West Virginia’s 1,000,000 wild deer population to CWD (Chronic Wasting Disease).
Sen. Miller is calling for the resignation of the leadership of the DNR, presumably meaning Frank Jezioro, the Director. I’ve got a better idea. Sportsmen of West Virginia, let us band together and let every member of the state’s legislature and the governor’s office know we do not want to jeopardize the state’s 1,000,000 wild deer herd nor its approximately $233,000,000 annual economic contribution to the state solely to benefit approximately 15 active West Virginia “deer farmers” who generate less than $250,000 a year to the economy. And our voices will be heard loud and clear at the ballot box in upcoming elections!
Let me put this “deer farm” issue in perspective:
• We have approximately 1,000,000 wild deer in West Virginia.
• We have approximately 1,000 deer on “deer farms” in West Virginia.
• We have approximately 400,000 deer hunters in West Virginia.
• We have less than 12 “active deer farms” in West Virginia.
The “deer farms” generate less than $250,000 annually to the state economy.
The wild deer population generates approximately $233,000,000 million annually to the state economy.
And we know:
• Deer in Hampshire and Hardy counties have tested positive to chronic wasting disease (CWD).
• CWD is caused by an infectious protein material (prion).
• CWD is fatal to infected deer.
• There is no practical live animal test for CWD.
With no testing procedure, no one knows if or when CWD might be brought into the state by “deer farmers” until it is too late.
CWD has proven essentially impossible to eradicate in wild deer populations.
• There is no vaccine for CWD.
• Concentration of animals, such as on “deer farms,” greatly increases the risk of disease transmission.
• Captive deer facilities have been linked to transmission of CWD to free-ranging deer populations.
• No deer fence is 100 percent escape proof.
The State of Wisconsin has lost many millions of dollars due to CWD infecting the wild deer herd and has had limited success in controlling the spread. (Senators Hall and Miller should ask Wisconsin officials about their views on CWD.)
The stakes are too high. There should be no relaxation of regulations on “deer farms.” The DNR should retain the authority to regulate “deer farms.” Politicians who repeatedly suggest otherwise should be removed from office by the voters — including we 400,000 deer hunters - for not representing the views and opinions of the vast majority of the citizens of West Virginia.
— Mr. Riffe is a retired Biologist, former supervisor of Wildlife Research, WV DNR
Former Chief of Wildlife Research, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service