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Photos By Jeff Simpson & Austin Thomas | 9.11.2020

The Greatest Threat to Wildlife Populations

Chronic Wasting Disease is perhaps the greatest threat that wildlife populations in North America face, and it is the most significant threat posed to our way of life as hunters. This neurological disease currently has no treatment or vaccine, is fatal in cervids, and is spreading across deer populations in North America.

“It’s a disease that we have no cure for and no way of stopping it, and there’s a lot of research that needs to be done to figure out how we’re going to deal with it,” says Dr. Karl Miller, the world’s preeminent deer biologist of the University of Georgia Deer Lab. “It may not be the end of deer hunting as we know it, but it will be the end of a lot of the ways we deer hunt. Deer populations are going to be a lot different because we see the highest incidents of disease in mature males, so the mature males which most hunters want to pursue are going to become fewer and fewer. We’re not going to be able to manage for those 4, 5, and 6-year-old age classes.”

There is hope, though, as organizations like the National Deer Alliance making progress in researching the cause of the disease and ways to stop the spread, and groups like the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership promote advocacy and lobby national and state governments for policy that helps to halt the spread of the disease. The largest roadblock at the moment is perhaps the great expense of this longterm and bio-secure research.

A SITKA Ecosystem Grant aims to fund this research and advocacy with the goal of learning more about this disease and arming hunters with the knowledge to help minimize its impact. We’ve cultivated multifaceted partnerships with both NDA and TRCP to support this effort.

“CWD is not a seasonal issue,” says SITKA representative, Charles Post. “It’s not an annual issue. It’s a perennial issue that we need to be consistently talking about. We as hunters need to be aware and informed.”

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