The Department of Natural Resources (DFW) and the Indiana Board of Animal
Health will launch a program this fall to determine whether the state's
deer herd has been infested by chronic wasting disease (CWD).
CWD has been found in deer of numerous states to the west, and in Wisconsin.
The big question among wildlife and public health agencies of the country
is how widespread the problem may be.
The DNR's Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) and the Indiana Board
of Animal Health, have been working for several months on a plan which
will bring about laboratory testing of somewhere between 1,000 and 5,000
deer during the upcoming deer seasons. Glenn Lange, chief of the DFW's
wildlife section, says the program is aimed at making sure deer in Indiana
are not infected. To this point, there is no evidence to indicate Indiana
deer are involved in the scare that his touched many states. "It is likely,"
Lange said, "that most other Midwestern states are working on similar programs."
Lange said that although the Indiana program will peak on the first
weekend of the firearms season, some samples may be taken during the early
bow season, and still more after the opening weekend of the firearms season.
Samples of deer brains and other tissue will be taken from deer at official
check stations from around the state, Lange said, adding that the
action will center at stations that have checked in large numbers of deer
in the past.
When the first weekend of the firearms season has passed and the two
state agencies have had a chance to determine if their samples are representative
of the entire state, more samples could be taken in regions not covered.
But Lange emphasized that the testing will be done on deer taken by
hunters who are willing to participate in the program. Thus, if a hunter
bags a trophy buck and wants to keep the head and rack intact, that option
will be open. "It is a voluntary program," Lange said.
In related news, the National Wildlife Federation informs us that the
U.S. House of Representatives last Wednesday passed by a vote of 377-46
a $20 billion Fiscal Year 2003 Department of Interior and Related Agencies
Appropriations bill, which includes increases in funding for wildlife and
conservation programs, including a $100 million appropriation for State
Wildlife Grants ($15 million above last year's level).
The bill also includes $2.7 million for the U.S. Geological Survey/Biological
Resources Division to carry out chronic wasting disease research, an issue
that has been of special concern to NWF affiliates and wildlife agencies
of many states.
The Senate, which earmarked only $60 million to the State Wildlife Grants,
could take up its version of the Interior bill as early as next week.
Other federal funding for CWD research programs of the states is available
now but not all details are known on that at this time. Such programs are
expected to be expensive.