The threat of chronic wasting disease (CWD) is something almost every whitetail hunter has heard repeatedly, whether their state has found positive CWD deer or not. The threat is real, and the disease is not only always fatal, but also has the ability to sustain in the soil and plant material around a deer carcass for several years.
The movement of deer or deer body parts (brain and spinal cord) amplifies the risk of spreading CWD. A lot of the blame gets put on the deer farming industry for transporting live whitetail in captive facilities, which absolutely can “move” the disease at unnatural rates. But the same thing can happen when hunters transport harvested deer carcasses inter- and intra-state. That said, what’s in the news most recently is on a whole new level. Effective July 1, 2015, Virginia became the first of the lower 48 states to ban the use of deer scents and lures containing natural deer urine or other bodily fluids.
As crazy as it might seem, there is some justification behind it. The infectious proteins (prions) known to transmit CWD have been discovered in urine and other bodily fluids of CWD-positive deer. Though many claim this is rare, some of the most recent research indicates it may not be as uncommon as originally thought, and states like Virginia are not taking any risks.
Researchers out of Colorado State University recently released results in which they found numbers of concern. One of the issues here is that researchers used [transgenic] mice infused with DNA from cervids (deer family) for the experiment. I know, how can you relate the two? But scientifically this is the best we have to this point. The researchers found that 50 percent of lethal dose (LD50) for infected deer urine was 10 ml. Even though it seems like a lot and highly unlikely that an animal would drink/consume a lethal dose, it is alarming considering the number of times a deer urinates in the woods. It may not be the end all research, but it gives us something to think about. Especially in areas of high deer densities or in years of drought, where the congregation around water holes is intense. Virginia didn’t want to take any chances, and neither did Alaska when it put their ban in place in 2012.
So does this mean the end of urine-based deer lures and scents? I highly doubt it. Though Virginia is taking some extra precautions, I do not see many other states to follow. The pressure will really be on the deer urine companies in the industry to make sure their source is reliable and CWD free. If that quality control is not taken, it could mean bad things for business in the future! But for now, if you plan on hunting Virginia for deer, I’d make sure to find some loaded up oaks that will be dropping acorns during the rut.