PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Chronic wasting disease has infected a mule deer in a commercial hunting herd in west-central South Dakota.
How the year-and-a-half-old buck contracted the fatal disease isn’t clear, retired State Veterinarian Sam Holland told the South Dakota Animal Industry Board on Tuesday. He’s privately advising Cedar Breaks Mule Deer Ranch on the matter.
Federal regulations say that a producer’s herd of deer, elk or moose designated as CWD-positive or CWD-exposed immediately loses federal certification and may re-enroll only after entering into a herd plan.
The ranch in Haakon County has a wire mesh fence 10 feet high. Holland said the ranch deer might have been infected while rubbing noses with a wild deer outside the fence.
Haakon County is one of the areas where CWD has been regularly found in wild deer.
Holland said the ranch intends to add an electric fence outside the mesh fence. He asked the state board to allow the ranch to continue selectively operating, rather than immediately de-populate. The hope, Holland said, is the herd can be federally recertified, provided that another ranch deer doesn’t get CWD in the next five years.
The state board on Tuesday directed its staff to cooperate with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the ranch in developing a herd plan, consistent with national program standards for CWD control and with South Dakota’s laws and regulations.
Mendel Miller, the assistant state veterinarian, described the decision as “groundbreaking.”
The South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks has found CWD in wild deer around the facility, according to Miller. “They’re aware of it,” he said about GFP staff. “We’ve talked about it. They’ve left it in the board’s hands.”
Board member John Voegeli, a veterinarian from Piedmont, said the staff’s veterinarians have been trusted in the past. Holland said the ranch can sell doe deer for meat and can use hunting to eliminate some bucks.
Voegeli asked how other states would view South Dakota. Holland replied there are national standards for control of CWD, and the plan would be intended to comply, but a state gets to make the decisions.
Mark Hollenbeck of Edgemont, president for the South Dakota Deer and Elk Breeders Association, backed the direction the board was taking. “We want to see this ranch continue to operate,” Hollenbeck said.