New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos and New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Commissioner (Ag & Markets) Richard Ball announced that the state has finalized the New York State Interagency Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Risk Minimization Plan.

The plan proposes regulatory changes and new actions to minimize the risk of CWD entering or spreading in New York State.

The plan is designed to protect both wild white-tailed deer and moose herds in New York, as well as captive cervids including deer and elk held at enclosed facilities.

“New York is leading the nation in protecting our valuable deer and moose populations and ensuring our hunting and outdoor recreation economy continues to thrive,” said DEC Commissioner Seggos. “This important plan streamlines operations and proposes strong actions to prevent the introduction of CWD, and is the result of a strong partnership effort of sporting groups, deer farmers, and other stakeholders. I commend the DEC and Ag and Markets staff and all our partners for their assistance in developing this action plan and look forward to working with them to implement these important strategies.”

DEC biologists worked with Ag & Markets veterinarians and wildlife health experts at the Animal Health Diagnostic Center (AHDC) at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University to craft a comprehensive set of disease prevention measures that are among the most advanced CWD prevention strategies in the nation. The plan updates reporting requirements, improves communication to stakeholders, and simplifies regulations to reduce confusion while protecting New York’s valuable natural resources.

In addition to conducting joint inspections of cervid farms and increased record sharing among agencies, the plan will prohibit the importation of certain parts from any CWD-susceptible cervid taken outside of New York and includes specific restrictions on what will be allowed into the state.

The plan also calls for increased public participation in the state’s efforts, and DEC and Ag & Markets are urging hunters and citizens to:

Report sick or abnormally behaving deer; Do not feed wild deer; Dispose of carcasses properly at approved landfills; Report violators; Use alternatives to urine-based lures or use synthetic forms of deer urine.

New York State ranks 6th in the nation in white-tailed deer hunting with more than 575,000 hunters harvesting an average of 210,000 deer each year. New York’s white tailed deer population estimates range from 900,000 to 1 million. Wild white-tailed deer hunting represents a $1.5 billion industry in the state.

Chronic wasting disease, a fatal brain disease found in certain species of the deer family, was discovered in Oneida County wild and captive white-tailed deer in 2005. More than 49,000 deer have been tested statewide since 2002, and there have been no reoccurrences of the disease since 2005. New York is still the only state to have eliminated CWD once it was found in wild populations. Other states have not been as fortunate. In North America, CWD has been found in 24 states and three Canadian provinces, including neighboring Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Chronic wasting disease was first identified in Colorado in 1967, and is caused by infectious prions (misfolded proteins) that cannot be broken down by the body’s normal processes. These prions cause holes to form in the brain. Prions are found in deer parts and products, including urine and feces and can remain infectious in soil for years and even be taken up into plant tissues.

Chronic wasting disease is in the same family of diseases (transmissible spongiform encephalopathies) as “mad cow” disease in cattle. To date, there have been no known cases of CWD in humans or in domestic farm animals, however, the Centers for Disease Control recommends that no one knowingly eat CWD-positive venison.

The final plan is available on the DEC website (http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7191.html).