Oklahoma might soon have a way to respond to a mysterious disease found in wild and captive deer herds. There may be no way to predict or cure an outbreak of chronic wasting disease, but at least there could soon be authority and a framework for response.

Oklahomans are lucky that chronic wasting disease is something we have read about but not had to deal with. Other states are making CWD headlines, and other states have to figure out how to handle the problem. Outbreaks can’t be predicted and soon guidelines for a response could be enacted.

Proposed in the new regulations will be subchapter 42, creating Director Authority for CWD Response. It states that, “Upon confirmation of a positive test within the borders of Oklahoma, the Director is authorized to implement management actions to surveil and manage the presence of CWD within the state.”

These actions will include establishing a management zone, altering season length, dates, areas and bag limits, altering permits, altering check station procedures, mandatory sampling from hunters, restrictions on bating and restrictions on cervid carcass parts movement.

Restrictions to captive hunting operations are also listed. The response plan to a CWD outbreak in Oklahoma is proposed to include restriction on live cervid movement, alterations to captive commercial hunting operation fencing and biosecurity measures and revocation of commercial hunting permits for positive facilities.

The sub-chapter also states that upon five consecutive years of surveillance with no further CWD positive cervid tests, the Director may remove any or all rules enacted under the new response plan.

Several states have reported deer testing positive for CWD this fall. Some have already taken steps to increase harvest in outbreak zones, and others are still trying to establish where exactly those zones are located.

The one thing that is consistent is that they have a plan. It’s good that our state is doing the same.

They are actually going further with proposed restrictions on the import of cervid carcass parts across state lines. Proposed changes state that the purpose of the subchapter, “is to establish requirements for the importation of live animals or the specific carcass parts from the family Cervidae that will help protect Oklahoma’s native deer and elk form the threat of CWD.”

If you read between the lines it means proposed changes will make it illegal to transport cervid brains or spinal materials across state lines into Oklahoma. Nobody wants an outbreak and nobody likes new rules, but this is a good thing for the state’s deer herd. If you have an opinion, public comment on all proposed rules changes will be open until Jan. 4.

You need restrictions on the import of live and harvested animals from outside places to help prevent CWD. You need to have something state that there is authority to respond to an outbreak of CWD and a framework for the response. In the end, you hope you never have to deal with it. I think it’s best to have preventative restrictions and to be prepared.

Jon Kocan is the Stillwater News Press outdoors writer and a longtime hunter. He can be reached at jkocan@stwnewspress.com.

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