Commission Hears Update on CWD Status in Oklahoma

May 8, 2019


Recognized at May's Wildlife Conservation Commission meeting was the Senior Division 2019 State Champion shooting sports team from Merritt High School; names are listed at the end of this release. (Don P. Brown/ODWC)

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Recognized at May's Wildlife Conservation Commission meeting was the Junior Division 2019 State Champion shooting sports team from Chisholm Junior High; names are listed at the end of this release. (Don P. Brown/ODWC)

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Commission Hears Update on CWD Status in Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission on Monday authorized the Director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to take reasonable steps to respond to future developments related to chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Oklahoma.

The authorization by a vote of 5-1 also instructed Director J.D. Strong to bring any such actions to the attention of the Commission as soon as possible after any actions are taken.

CWD is a fatal neurological disease that affects the brains of elk, deer and other cervid species. No vaccine or treatment for the disease exists. Importantly, no health risk to humans or non-cervid livestock has been documented.

In late April, an elk from a farmed herd in Lincoln County tested positive for CWD.

Strong emphasized that any CWD response related to farmed cervids, cervid breeding facilities or the import and export of farmed cervids is under the jurisdiction of the state Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. The Wildlife Department is responsible for managing the wild cervid populations and overseeing cervid hunting facilities.

Strong said the Wildlife Department’s goal is not to make any hasty, large-scale decisions right away in dealing with the threat of CWD, but to take a measured, scientific approach and collect all the information possible before deciding how to best respond to any possible confirmed cases in wild cervids.

He stressed the need for a team approach and expressed his continued willingness to work with the various stakeholder groups in finalizing a CWD action plan.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about hunting,” Strong said, whether CWD strikes farmed cervids or wild cervids. “One of the best ways is to enlist the help of hunters” in a strategy to minimize the spread of CWD.

Also during Monday’s regular meeting, the 2019 state champion teams in the Oklahoma Scholastic Shooting Sports Program were recognized. Members of the senior team from Merritt High School and the junior team from Chisholm Junior High School stood for the applause of Commissioners and attendees. Each student was given a challenge coin by Laura McIver, Oklahoma representative for Quail/Pheasants Forever. Quail Forever chapters sponsor many of the school teams that participate in OKSSSP.

In other business, Commissioners:

  • Recognized Senior Wildlife Biologist JD Ridge for 30 years of service, and Wildlife Biologist Scott Cox for 25 years of service.
  • Accepted a donation of $1,350 from the Cherokee Strip Chapter of Quail Forever for the Stars and Stripes License Project, which offers hunting and fishing licenses to certain military veterans and select survivors of veterans lost while serving their country.
  • Approved a resolution adopting dates and bag limits for the 2019-20 waterfowl seasons. The daily limit for pintail ducks is reduced to one bird. Youth hunting days will be Oct. 5 and Feb. 1 in all three zones. Hunting for waterfowl and geese in Zones 1 and 2 will be closed Dec. 2-13 for the midseason split. Opening days for ducks are Oct. 12 in the Panhandle, Oct. 26 in Zone 1 and Nov. 2 in Zone 2.
  • After an executive session, authorized the Director by a 5-1 vote to complete the purchase of real property in McCurtain County.
  • Heard Director Strong’s regular report on various division activities in the Department, including notice that the annual Game Harvest Survey of hunters and the Angler Survey that happens every five years are both underway.

The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission is the eight-member governing board of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The Commission establishes state hunting and fishing regulations, sets policy for the Wildlife Department and indirectly oversees all state fish and wildlife conservation activities. Commission members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Oklahoma Senate. 

The next scheduled Commission meeting will be 9 a.m. Monday, June 10, 2019, at the Department headquarters, 1801 N. Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City.

Gathered for a donation to the Stars and Stripes License Project are, from left, Assistant Director Wade Free, Assistant Director Melinda Streich, Laura McIver of Quail Forever, Wildlife Assistant Chief Bill Dinkines and Upland Game Biologist Tell Judkins. (Don P. Brown/ODWC)

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Merritt High School 2019 OKSSSP state champion team: Front from left, ODWC State Coordinator Damon Springer, Colt Quisenberry, Gracie Lewis, Weston Fish, Blakely Barnett, Shea Gilbert, Breegan Barnett, Scott Carr, coach Susan Barnett; back from left, Cole Carnes, Coy Carnes, Klayton McGee, Jarrett Smith, Adam Gibbins, Trever Damron, Zach Piancino, Carson Rutherford, and Reece Hightower.

Chisholm Junior High 2019 OKSSSP state champion team: Front from left, State Rep. Denise Crosswhite-Hader, Nolan Deterding, Jackson Caddell, Kelten Payne, Chase Miles, Ava Crosswhite, Grace Eagan; back from left, ODWC Director J.D. Strong, Mason Jackson, Garrett Harves, Trevor Fromm, Landon Garza, Maddie Fuksa, and Superintendent Roydon Tilley.