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Of Phil McCausland
Doug Duren lives on a 430-acre farm in Wisconsin that has been in his family for 115 years, and retains more than 200 wild acres for deer hunting.
It is a vast plot of land to hunt – boasting about 75 white-tailed deer per square mile – and Duren, 60, keeps a conservative mantra in mind when running it: "It's not ours, it's just our turn."
That phrase is of particular importance these days for hunters like Duren, since a disease called chronic wasting disease (CWD) continues to spread through the cervid population, which includes animals such as deer, elk and elk.
Duren has faced on his land. Three of the 30 deer killed in his estate last season tested positive for CWD, and is increasingly worried because the disease was detected in 24 states across the country.
"From the point of view of the hunt and from the point of view of public health, will we be well with the fact that most of our deer are walking with a disease that will kill them in two years?", He asked Saturday after returning home from a fishing competition.
Now many experts are also worried that the disease can move to humans through the consumption of venison. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Research and Research on Infectious Diseases at the University of Minnesota, told state legislators last week that he is worried that it will happen soon.
"It is likely that human cases of chronic wasting disease associated with consumption of contaminated meat will be documented in the coming years," he told the Minnesota parliament last week. "It is possible that the number of human cases is substantial and they are not isolated events".
Often compared to mad cow disease, affliction comes from a form of protein called prion, which accumulates in the animal's brain and lymph nodes. The disease is always fatal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but before death it can cause the animals to lose weight and coordination and grow them into aggression.
At this time concerns about CWD within the hunting community seem to be largely limited to people dealing with their hunting area.
But a string of titles published shortly after Osterholm's testimony has warned against a "zombie" disease that could soon infect humans, which according to Duren and many other hunting advocates and educators is not helpful. .
Steven Rinella, an author of game books that manages the MeatEater Podcast and the Netflix television series that boasts the same name, has defined the false representation of the disease in the past week "one of the worst cases of Clickbait appeal".
"It's always disturbing when something like this spreads through mainstream media and is grossly misrepresented and does not take into account all the skills that have been applied to this," he said.
Although Rinella, 45, was not a fan of recent coverage, she said she is very concerned about the disease and has seen it spread across the country throughout her entire career. This disease is not new, he points out: the first case was found in Colorado in the 60s and has grown considerably in the early 2000s.
Today, Rinella, like Duren, says the test is part of the hunt.
"At this time the concerns about the CWD inside the hunting community seem to be largely limited to people dealing with their hunting area," said Rinella. "People wake up when they hit home, and I would like to see a greater degree of concern from hunters in areas that are not yet affected."
Due to the continued spread of the disease, state agencies are still vigilant and many are installing places where hunters can leave deer heads to be tested for the disease. They receive results in seven to 10 days.
Keith Stephens, Arkansas's chief communications officer and fish commission official, said his state maintains 35 delivery points across the state where hunters can wrap their plastic deer heads, attach a ticket and put them in a freezer. They are also working with taxidermists and educating hunters on every occasion.
But the amount of tests they are conducting free for the hunters of the state is expensive, especially because they have to send everything to test in Madison, Wisconsin. Some states have their own test facility.
Would you feed that meat to your 4-year-old child knowing he could be infected?
"The individual test is not expensive, but we have tested almost 19,000 deer since 2016," Stephens said. "I think it's about $ 20 a piece, so this adds, but we think it's important to make sure the hunters are comfortable eating deer in Arkansas."
Some states have invested in creating bounty programs to reduce populations of infected deer, and others have shed dollars in further research to find a cure or any other form of solution. But everything requires money.
While the federal government has invested millions of dollars to study chronic wasting disease after declaring a state of emergency in 2001, the money has declined in subsequent years and has not been reinvested. The Interior Department refused to comment.
Senator Amy Klobuchar, one of the Democratic presidency contenders, pushed Congress to get federal funding at the end of last year.
The decline in funding is a problem for many hunters because they say that there is so much they do not know about CWD and if it can spread to humans.
"The hardest part is that there are so many unknowns," said Jeff Minsterman, who hunts near his home in Pennsylvania. "They did not show that it happened, but at the same time you would feed your 4-year-old son knowing he could be infected?"
Rinella said that following science and investing in research is the key.
"I think all federal-elected officials from any state where there is a deer hunting culture should pay close attention to this," said Rinella. "There's a huge industry for rural communities around deer hunting and there are some potential public safety issues."
There was a new movement on that front.
Senator John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Was joined by a bipartisan group of senators from across the country to present a bill at the start of the month that directed the Department of Agriculture and the 39; US Geological Survey to work with the Academies of Science to further study the disease.
The bill would enlist the groups to provide a study in 180 days, and all this would be paid by the USDA and the Department of the Interior.
The study is welcome to hunters and besieged states, as the people who participate in the trade say that CWD jeopardizes a popular American pastime.
Deer hunting has attracted more than 8.1 million hunters in 2016, according to a study of the 2016 and US census on fish and wildlife. Collectively these people spent about $ 15 billion on travel and equipment, which helped to float a large American industry and many rural cities.
However, there is a fear that hysteria around CWD may affect people traveling or buying certain products.
"I can see him decimating sporting goods stores and some companies because people do not come, do not buy equipment and it's hard to look at it and not know if this is a solution," said Minsterman, who is a regional sales manager for a company of sports optics.
Yet it is difficult to ignore potential health problems due to how closely intertwined eating and hunting.
A research company of natural resources and open recreation called Responsive Management found in 2017 that 39 percent of hunters pursue sport for meat. A March 2017 Alliance for Public Wildlife report said that up to 15,000 hunting families are estimated to eat CWD-infected meat each year. The report states that the number grows by 20% each year due to the spread of the disease.
"Fortunately, no one has ever contracted the disease by eating positive venison at CWD, but I'd like to have a crystal ball to see if it's still like this or not for 25 years," said Rinella, who tests her animals after hunting in infected areas. "Uncertainty is tough."