We saw nearly a full-page article on the subject of chronic wasting disease (CWD) on the Feb. 28 Outdoors page. But the research mentioned is of questionable value (few scientists agree that bacteria have anything to do with prion disease).

Even if a vaccine could be developed, it would only be useful in captive situations. New game farms were prohibited in Montana in 2000, so we have only 17 with a total of 809 animals now. Imagine the cost and logistics of vaccinating 334,965 free-ranging mule deer, 215,268 white-tailed deer, and 138,470 elk, as well as an unknown number of moose.

CWD is known in 22 states. No strategies tried by any game agency has been effective in preventing, controlling, or eradicating CWD. None of these states has studied or tried employing the natural controls that were in place until we nearly eliminated them: wolves and mountain lions. We have both, that could function as the essential sanitarians they were before they were widely annihilated.

Modeling by Hobbs et al (2006) and Wild et al (2011) suggest wolves could reduce the incidence of CWD. Krumm et al (2010) wrote that mountain lions prey selectively on prion-infected mule deer. “…both female and male deer killed by mountain lions were more likely to be infected than same sex deer killed in the vicinity by a hunter… mountain lions in this area actively selected prion-infected individuals when targeting adult mule deer as prey items.”

Hunters can’t contain CWD. Wolves can: They are on the hunt 365 days, 24 hours, with 100 times our sensory capacity, selectively sifting and sorting for disabled prey that is less likely to kick their teeth out.

Download The Challenge of CWD (Geist et al 2017) at www.apwildlife.org/publications for more.

Norman A. Bishop