The National Deer Association (NDA) strongly opposes recent action by the Mississippi Parks, Fish and Wildlife Commission (Commission) to remove Claiborne County from the Mississippi Chronic Wasting Disease Management Area (CWD- MZ). The measure arbitrarily and needlessly places the state’s wild deer herd, a publicly-trusted resource, at significant risk of exposure to and spread of CWD.
Claiborne County was placed on CWD-MZ after CWD was detected in wild deer in Tensas Parish, Louisiana. Tensas Parish and Claiborne County are separated only by the Mississippi River, and the western border of Claiborne County is within one mile of the location of the positive CWD screening in Tensas Parish. The Mississippi Chronic Wasting Disease Management Plan (Plan), which was approved by the Commission in April 2021, requires that, after a confirmed positive for CWD within an existing positive county or a new county, all counties within 10 miles of the positive, including the county containing the positive, will be placed on a CWD-MZ for a minimum of three years.
The Commission’s removal of Claiborne County from the CWD-MZ was based on the erroneous conclusion that the Mississippi River serves as a physical barrier to deer movement between Louisiana and Mississippi. This is inaccurate, as evidenced by GPS collar data collected by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fish and Parks (MDWFP), other state agencies, and educational institutions. Multiple studies have concluded that deer can, and regularly do, cross the Mississippi River. The removal also ignores the qualified expertise of MDWFP biologists in recommending the inclusion of Claiborne County in a CWD-MZ and the formation of the CWD Management Plan, which is based on many of the best management practices for CWD as outlined in describes the Fish Association. and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA).
“Unfortunately, this is not the Commission’s first foray into scientific contempt, which is a dereliction of duty in favor of special interests and policies,” said Nick Pinizzotto, NDA President and CEO. “The Commission has shown a pattern of prioritizing, blatantly, at times, the interests of a small subset of private landowners and captive cervid facility owners without regard to the citizens of Mississippi and the state’s precious wildlife resource. “.
Earlier this year, and again in opposition to the advice of MDWFP biologists, the Commission passed a motion to remove disease detection and distance-of-positive tests as components used to determine a county’s inclusion in a CWD- MZ. This move was worrisome, at best. Specifically, the Commission chose to remove the 10-mile radius provision and a minimum disease sampling threshold, opting instead to institute a framework that only requires a county to have no positive CWD detections for three years before it can removed from CWD-MZ. This model is harmful in two ways: first, removing the proximity component unnecessarily exposes the highest-risk counties to the spread of CWD, and second, removing sampling requirements removes the incentive to sample. The decision resulted in the removal of several counties from the CWD-MZ.
Based on the actions of this Commission, the NDA believes that the Governor’s appointment process for Commissioners should be re-evaluated with an emphasis on appointing qualified members who care about the state’s wildlife resources.
“Commissioners should be appointed based on their background or training in biological sciences, wildlife conservation, forest resources, or professional experience with an environmental or conservation organization,” Pinizzotto said. “Wildlife should be managed by science, not by politics or for the benefit of special interests.”
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About the National Deer Association
The National Deer Association is the leading nonprofit deer conservation group, working to ensure the future of wild deer, wildlife habitat, and game. Formed by combining the strengths of two long-standing successful organizations, the National Deer Association has a combined 40-year effort that has changed deer management to improve hunting and protect America’s most vital and admired game species. North America for future generations. Visit DeerAssociation.com or follow @deerassociation on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and TikTok.