Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Bad news at a bad time
About the time I was going to hit 'publish' on this post/tirade, it was announced that the National Veterinary Services Labs in Ames, Iowa had retested the tissue samples and found no signs of CWD in the buck from Ashland Co. It was a false positive from the Madison lab and it would seem we have dodged a bullet. I thought I would still publish the post because I believe its only a matter of time before we are hit with the disease. It took 3 years of legal BS before a deer herd that had 82 confirmed cases of CWD in Portage County could be destroyed. The DNR asked the legislature for a law banning the import of deer from western CWD affected states and they couldn't even get that done. We got lucky this time but the next time we won't.
It was announced late last week that a deer from a deer farm south of Ashland, WI tested positive for CWD, Chronic Wasting Disease, a fatal disease that affects deer and elk. The last outbreak in the state resulted in the eradication of the entire wild deer herd in the Mount Horeb area just south of Madison. This recent case occurred about 40 miles from our camp. In a 'small world theory' coincidence, the owners of the deer farm have visited our camp a number of times and in fact are related to a few of the guys in our group. Needless to say there will be heated discussion at happy hour and probably most other spare moments as well.
If you want a synopsis of the story as it developed, just Google 'CWD Ashland Co'. You can choose between the Duluth News Tribune, Chicago Tribune, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, or dozens of other publications and bloggers that have commented. I always like Sam Cook. I joke to my fellow employees that I will be off until the Monday after Thanksgiving for 'Holy Week'. Its not far from the truth in northern Wisconsin. Virtually all of my friends in junior high hunted. If their dads didn't hunt guys like my old man would take them under their wing and introduce them to the activity. School was deserted the week of Thanksgiving and a number of schools simply closed for the week. I know guys that have a $300 car and a $900 deer rifle. Many folks, including me and my cohorts, have spent thousands of dollars on land, taxes, and equipment. It's about the deer on a certain level but its also about family, friends, nature, cameraderie, and escaping from the twittering, texting, cell phone connected, and yes, blogging world. It's my best mental vacation of the year where I return to the 19th century, with its outhouse, hand pump, wood fired sauna, and gas lights. Three generations at the same camp is the norm in Wisconsin and while Chronic Wasting Disease will most certainly not end this, it will have a chilling effect. The satisfaction of harvesting, processing, and eating your own hormone and antibiotic free, non feed lot raised, and lowfat meat will be seriously compromised. All pretty much because people want to make a few quick bucks. Like the Asian carp and other exotics in the Great Lakes, people simply need to follow the money.
I am going to admit right up front that I am a 'specieist'. The idea of going to a game farm to shoot pheasants is fine in my brain. Going to a game farm to shoot a large mammal because it has large, artificially grown antlers on its head is not. I also only hunt animals that I like to eat, my personal hunting ethic. Grouse are a target, geese are not. The problem with game farms is that they import breeding stock from far away to achieve those big racks that guys too lazy or incompetent to do scouting, too impatient to spend time in the woods, and too goal oriented to tolerate any lack of success, want to brag about having on their walls. The government is pretty much useless in situations like this. Its the Jurassic Park syndrome. As Dr.Ian Malcom said in the movie, "Life, uh....finds a way". No rules, inspectors, fines or suspensions will help. Diseases will spread if you help them by moving them great distances, floods will float the Asian carp out of the fish farm ponds and into the waterways, the same floods will transport them from the Chicago River (if they don't just swim through the locks) to Lake Michigan, and the Lampreys and Zebra Mussels will get in the ballast water in Hamburg and get a free ride to the Great Lakes. In a true ironic moment, a couple of friends volunteer with the Ashland office of the US Fish and Wildlife Service monitoring Zebra Mussels in Chequamagon Bay. One got a call last week from some guys in Washburn telling him that if he wanted to see a bunch of Zebra Mussels to come down. Apparently they put the LL Smith, the UW-Superior research vessel into dry dock and the hull had all sorts of Zebra Mussels attached to it. I get a fine if they find a couple strands of milfoil hanging from my skeg cord on my kayak but the government can pull into Washburn with a veritable Zebra Mussel breeding colony stuck on the bottom of their boat and its all cool. Maybe the Corp of Engineers should do a five year study on the impact Zebra Mussel attachment to boats. My guess is that the results will be very similar to those of the 5 year Asian carp study in the Great Lakes that just started.
Its depressing and it sucks. Lets not inconvenience the fish farm owners, deer and elk farm owners, or the Great Lakes shipping community. After all, they might lose some jobs or even some money! Nope, lets defraud the general public and screw up flora, fauna, the environment,and everything else we possibly screw up but lets not inhibit commerce. I hate to launch my week of solitude and bliss with a tirade but there are some things that more than deserve a good rant and this is sure as hell one of them. I wish I had an answer but I'm afraid that I don't, other than having some political leaders with the guts to make some hard choices. The chances of that are just about as good as the chances that there was no mingling of the game farm deer and the wild deer through that big hole in the fence.
Next post here: the Monday after Thanksgiving. Enjoy the holiday and please don't trample any mall security guards!