Doug Jones introduces bipartisan bill to help keep Alabama’s deer population healthy

CWD deer
Deer from Kansas with CWD [Photo courtesy of Mike Hopper, Kansas Dept. of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism]

On Thursday U.S. Sen. Doug Jones took a step to tackle one of the largest challenges facing hunters throughout the country — Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).

Jones introduced a bill in Congress to help to increase wildlife managers’ ability to keep wildlife healthy. The bill authorizes a special resource study to determine how CWD spreads and could be prevented in deer and elk. CWD can affect both wild and domestic herds of deer and elk in 25 states. However, state recommendations for preventing the spread of the disease vary. The bill would give state wildlife agencies and wildlife experts information to conduct targeted research on how the disease is transmitted, determine which areas are most at risk, and develop consistent advice for hunters to prevent further spread.

CWD nears Alabama

CWD is a deadly neurological illness, similar to mad cow disease, is putting the deer, moose and elk populations at risk. The disease is infectious, communicable, and always fatal. This fall, the disease was discovered in the wild in two deer in east Mississippi for the first time.

As of now, the disease has not been detected in any Alabama deer. Alabama state wildlife officials have committed to pay extra attention to deer in Franklin, Lamar and Marion counties — all within a 50-mile radius of where the infected deers were found.

Jones’ bill

“As an avid outdoorsman and hunter, I am deeply troubled by the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease,” said Jones. “This disease is threatening to impact the wildlife population in Alabama just as it has in a number of other states throughout the country. That’s why it is so vital for the Senate to pass legislation that will ultimately give state and local wildlife officials the tools they need to contain the spread of CWD.”

The “Chronic Wasting Disease Transmission in Cervidae Study Act” addresses the needs identified by state wildlife agencies. The bill requires the USDA secretary to enter into an arrangement with the National Academies of Sciences to review current data and best management practices (BMPs) from the CWD Herd Certification Program and state agencies regarding:

  1. Pathways and mechanisms for CWD transmission
  2. Areas at risk and geographical patterns of CWD transmission
  3. Gaps in current scientific knowledge regarding transmission to prioritize research to address gaps

Maine-Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, Texas-Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn , Wyoming-Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, Wisconsin-Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, South Dakota-Republican John Thune, West Virginia-Democrat Joe Manchin, and Mississippi-Republican Roger Wicker all cosponsored the legislation.