Myth: State Agencies Can Eradicate CWD

We frequently see comments in the media from state wildlife officials or the reporters themselves talking about "eradicating CWD." Here are some examples:

"Today marks the start of 'critical' deer season. The DNR is stressing the importance of the hunters' role in eradicating CWD."
- Wisconsin State Journal, Oct 2002

"Gov. Doyle took office in 2003, CWD eradication and herd reduction started in 2003."
Deer & Deer Hunting Forum, Dec 2008

"Slow and steady will define the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' plan of attack for combating chronic wasting disease in the northwestern Wisconsin deer herd. No mass eradication efforts such as those applied in southern Wisconsin - which has battled CWD for a decade - are in the works."
- The Country Today, April 2012

The problem with these statements is that using the term 'eradicate' is either pie-in-the-sky or disingenuous. Either way, the use of the term misleads hunters to thinking eradication is a reasonable and achievable goal.

Then, there's the shocking statement from the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department:
Eradication of CWD can be achieved if free-ranging deer can be depopulated to 0 to 5
deer per square-mile for a period of at least 5 years in an area within about 10 miles of the location where the initial infected deer or moose was found.

Depopulated to 0? To 'eradicate' CWD, a disease that typically impacts less that half of 1% of the population, Vermont wildlife authorities would kill 100% of the deer?

Scientists are still researching CWD. We know CWD is a transmissible neurological disease of deer and elk that produces small lesions in brains of infected animals. It is characterized by loss of body condition, behavioral abnormalities and death. CWD is classified as a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE), and is similar to mad cow disease in cattle and scrapie in sheep.

As much as everyone would like to 'eradicate' all diseases, the best we can hope for currently is to minimize the spread of CWD, if indeed that is even possible. There simply has not been enough empirical data collected yet to create a treatment plan or preventative strategy. We cannot, as much as we would like to, 'eradicate' CWD.