Future Of Deer Hunting: USDA TO Revise Standards for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

cwd map

As I’ve said on the Blog and on BIG DEER TV, CWD is the biggest issue and threat that we’ve faced in the last 50 years, and maybe ever. We need to stay on top of this and learn all we can about this disease.

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) reports that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is currently revising their standards for CWD, and they need to hear from deer hunters from across the country. To that end, TRCP put out this message which I wholeheartedly agree with and support:

Deer hunting is the single most popular form of hunting in the United States, with 9.2 million Americans participating each year, contributing more than $20 billion in economic activity, state and local taxes, and wildlife restoration trust fund excise taxes. Deer hunters play an essential role in the “user pays, public benefits” framework of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. Reductions in deer hunting and the number of deer hunters have reverberating impacts that extend far beyond deer and deer hunting directly, including state fish and wildlife agency budgets and their broader fish and wildlife management work, and rural economic health.

Deer populations represent one of the great success stories of American wildlife conservation, and deer hunters have led the way; but the continued spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) across the country represents a stark threat to the future of deer populations, deer hunting, and more broadly, the public’s wildlife resources. Once again, hunters stand ready to take the steps necessary to address this worrisome issue, but we cannot do it alone. Significant progress must also be made by the deer farming industry.

As the lead federal agency tasked with slowing and ultimately ending the further spread of CWD, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) must take proactive and meaningful steps, including:

1. Reducing the spread of CWD to levels low enough that new cases are extremely rare.
2. Including all effective disease control options, to include improved fencing for deer farms and stronger requirements for disease monitoring, surveillance, and decontamination.
3. Covering all native and farmed deer species in North America.
4. Requiring mandatory testing of all dead animals from captive herds.
5. Eliminating the movement of CWD-infected deer from all sources.
6. Recommending a third-party review of the APHIS Herd Certification and Interstate Movement program and Program Standards due to continued detection of CWD in herds monitored beyond five years, largely due to flaws with the program.

TRCP encourages all of us to take action and weigh in on the CWD threat. Fill out the form found here to send a letter to decision makers at the USDA APHIS.

Minn: Rare Two-Headed Fawn

minn 2 headed fawnFrom Fox News: A mushroom hunter’s discovery of a conjoined white-tailed fawn in a Minnesota forest two years ago is being hailed by researchers as a landmark case among oddities in nature.

The fawns, which were stillborn, are believed to have been the first recorded case of a conjoined two-headed deer to have reached full term and born by their mother, according to a study recently published in the science journal American Midland Naturalist.

“It’s never been described before,” Lou Cornicelli, co-author of the study and a wildlife research manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, told FOX9. “There are a few reported cases of two-headed ungulate fetuses, but nothing delivered to term. So, the uniqueness made it special.”

Laboratory tests and scans performed on the carcass, which had been preserved and frozen for study, revealed the fawns had two head-neck regions joined along the spine. The fur, heads, and legs were normal, but the animals had a shared liver, extra spleens, and gastrointestinal tracts. Scientists said that with that anatomy they could never have survived.

Another example of how amazing and awesome nature is: The mushroom hunter found the two-headed fawn just hours after it/they were stillborn. As you can clearly see in the picture, they were in a serene and natural state and groomed, indicating the mother doe had tried to care for them after delivery.

Spring: Deer Antler Growth Cycle

Microsoft PowerPoint - Antler Growth Cycle Figure.pptx






This graphic from the Mississippi State Deer Lab shows the entire antler growth cycle…here we focus on spring growth, what is happening right now:

New antler growth resumes about 3 weeks after (old) antler drop, on a scab that has formed over the pedicles. A growing antler is covered with velvet and grows from the tip. Antler growth is slow during April-May and becomes more rapid during June-July, especially in older bucks.

Weird: When Legs Grow Out A Deer’s Body!

legs grow deer bodyA guy emailed this picture of a deer with legs growing and flopping out its back. Don’t know when or where it was shot. I’ve seen it before, so it was a few years ago.

Photoshop? Looks legit to me.

From the scant research I could find on this type of genetic abnormality, scientists say on the very rare occasion when legs grow out of a deer’s body, they were likely those of a twin that didn’t form all the way.

According to this QDMA post this is most likely a case of a “parasitic twin.” Twin fawns probably began to develop inside a doe, but the twin embryos did not completely separate and one of them stopped developing normally. The legs on this buck’s back may actually be non-functioning remnants of the twin that failed to develop fully, but that remained attached to the healthy embryo.

Parasitic twins are rare but have been documented in many animal species and even in humans.

New Research: Southeast Deer Study Group 2018

sedsg2018The Southeast Deer Study Group meets annually and is a forum for researchers, biologists and wildlife students to share their latest information on whitetail deer. I monitored the 2018 meeting last week via the Twitter of the QDMA and others. Here are some interesting deer science tidbits:

Since beginning a quality deer management program (QDM) 16 years ago, a Tennessee hunt club reports an 84% increase in buck sightings per hour for hunters and a 486% increase in mature buck harvest (deer 3.5 years or older) per hunter.

QDM works especially when you give it time!

Dr. John Kilgo of the U.S. Forest Service reported that coyote reproduction actually increases in response to trapping efforts. Add that to the fact that new coyotes will move into an area, and you need an ongoing and annual trapping program to have any sustained benefit for fawn survival on a property.

Daniel Molina of Mississippi State Deer Lab studied if, and how, does choose bucks to breed with based on a male’s age, body size and antlers. He found that only antler size produced a significant difference in doe choice between 2 bucks. 80% of estrus does chose the buck with bigger antlers!

As I have blogged before, not all deer that get hemorrhagic disease (EHD or bluetongue) die, and those that survive develop antibodies. A study at SCWDS shows that survivor does pass these antibodies to their fawns, and help shield fawns from infection for 3-4 months.

According to a study from the University of Delaware, fawn birth weight is strongly tied to fawn survival (heavier the little deer the more likely to live). This emphasizes the importance of quality deer habitat. Better habitat means greater fawn survival!

Jacob Haus of the Univ. of Delaware  tracked 61 yearling bucks (1.5 years old) through a hunting season in the southern part of the state. Survival rate was 75% for bucks that exclusively roamed on private land, versus 37% for bucks that used some public land during the season.

Researchers at King Ranch in Texas aged more than 7,300 bucks by tooth replacement/wear and cementum analysis. They found no evidence that soil type or other variables changed the usefulness and accuracy of jawbone aging.