Myth: CWD wipes out deer herds

CWD is not the massive contagion that some claim it to be. In fact, there has never been one documented case of a herd (wild or farmed) being lost due to a so-called “contagion” of CWD.

Some ‘experts’ have publicly promoted a theory that CWD would cause widespread depopulation of deer and other cervids within 10 to 20 years. However, there is simply is no evidence to support this theory. Actually, quite the opposite is true.

Evidence suggests that CWD routinely effects around 0.05 percent or less of the cervid population, and that cervids are in no catastrophic danger from CWD.

For example, the Colorado Division of Wildlife identified CWD in a wild elk in 1981, marking the first documented case of CWD in a wild cervid. If the above theory were true, CWD — as a highly infectious and uncontrollable disease unchecked in the wild — would certainly have wiped out all the elk in Colorado…right?

The facts tell a different story. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation reports that Colorado’s elk population grew 50% to 70% larger from 1984 to 2009.
For 2012, Colorado is issuing 139,461 limited licenses for elk. According to Colorado Parks & Wildlife, this number is a 2.2 % decline in the number of limited elk tags and is “mostly related to elk populations reaching management objectives after several years of intentional efforts to reduce elk damage on private lands.”

So, after 30 years since the first case of CWD was found, the elk herd in Colorado is as still as strong and healthy as ever.

Here’s another example. Colorado also confirmed CWD in a wild mule deer in 1985, so officials have known CWD to exist in the state’s mule deer herd for 27 years.

Most Western states, including Colorado, are seeing declines in mule deer populations.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife reports that the decline is due to a combination of severe winters, increased development, habitat decline and migration corridor fragmentation. No mention of CWD.

The neighboring state of Utah recently identified predators as being the largest threat to mule deer and passed legislation known as the Mule Deer Protection Act that appropriated $750,000 toward predator control targeting coyotes.

The truth is that CWD has never wiped out a herd of deer or other cervid. The only destruction of herds, when it comes to CWD, has been state quarantine policies. Wildlife authorities in many states routinely kill hundreds of animals as part of their quarantine practices. If one deer or elk is found with the disease, they kill hundreds of animals and they usually find they were all perfectly healthy.

CWD has never had a negative impact on a deer population. In fact, the areas with no hunting, such as national parks, typically have the largest infection rates.