A Black Eye For Game Farms

An Iowa captive deer facility gains dubious CWD distinction.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship announced last week that a captive herd comprised of 356 White-Tailed Deer was destroyed on a north central Iowa preserve in late August after about 280—or 80 percent of the herd—tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD).

The discovery marked is the single largest number of CWD-positive ungulates ever detected at a single facility in the United States, more than the total of nearly 50 captive deer operations in the States where CWD has been detected.

“This is what happens when you allow disease to sit and percolate on a game farm,” said Bryan Richards, the CWD project leader at the U.S. Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin.

The previous high number of infections was found at a Portage County, Wisconsin, deer farm in 2006, where 60 of 76 deer tested positive for the disease. The state of Wisconsin purchased the farm in order to keep fences in place and prevent wild deer from entering the contaminated property.

In July, 2012, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) National Veterinary Services Lab in Ames, Iowa, confirmed a whitetail buck harvested at a Southeastern Iowa hunting preserve was infected with CWD. A subsequent investigation found the animal originated from the north-central Iowa captive deer facility.

The captive deer herd was immediately quarantined to prevent the spread of CWD. The herd has remained in quarantine for more than 2 years, until its depopulation Aug. 25-27. In the interim, the owners were in litigation with the state regarding compensation for the herd.

Once the depopulation was complete and the premises had been cleaned and disinfected, federal indemnity of $917,100 from the USDA (translation: your tax dollars) has been or will be paid to the owners as compensation for the 356 captive deer depopulated.

The Iowa case has heightened frustrations among many sportsmen regarding some state’s regulations regarding captive deer operations.

“Delays due to litigation and lack of federal tax dollars to buy out this diseased herd placed the wild deer that belong to the people of the State of Iowa at great risk,” said David Clausen of Amery, a veterinarian, hunter and former chairman of the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board.

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