South Dakota panel adopts chronic-wasting disease plan

Capitol News Bureau
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FORT PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota has a new plan for countering chronic-wasting disease in deer and elk.

The state Game, Fish and Parks Commission approved the plan Tuesday and set a public hearing for proposed rules.

The hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. MT Thursday, September 5, at the Spearfish Holiday Inn.

The rules would govern transportation and disposal of deer and elk carcasses.

The known CWD endemic area currently includes Custer, Fall River, Lawrence and Pennington counties in southwestern South Dakota.

Wildlife Division official Chad Switzer called the plan “a good beginning.” He added, “I think there will be opportunity to make amendments down the road.”

Switzer said the Game, Fish and Parks Department is trying to deter the spread of the prion that causes CWD. “It may be here for who knows how long,” he said.

An infected carcass from the endemic region could spread contamination if any pieces were left in the field elsewhere.

“Obviously an important subject that we need to have significant discussion on,” commission chairman Gary Jensen of Rapid City said.

Andy Alban, law enforcement administrator for the department, said violations would be class-two misdemeanors punishable by up to $500 fines and 30 days in jail. Alban said the likely penalties would be $75 to $150 fines.

GFP Secretary Kelly Hepler said responses might be invisible for decades but South Dakota shouldn’t continue in a gray area. 

Commissioner Scott Phillips of rural New Underwood asked whether people who live and hunt in the endemic counties could dispose of the carcasses in normal fashion. Switzer said yes.

The rules wouldn’t take effect until July 1, 2020, so GFP staff could work with hunters and the general public.

“Have we reached everybody? No. We never will. But we’ve given our best,” Switzer said.

Commissioner Jon Locken of Bath said, “We’re not going to stop chronic-wasting in the state, but we’re trying to stop the spread.”

Commissioner Mary Anne Boyd of Yankton compared it to the department’s efforts to control invasive species.

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