At their regular October meeting in Medicine Park, Wildlife Conservation Commissioners opened the meeting with a moment of silence to honor the late Bill Brewster. Brewster was a passionate and dedicated sportsman who served on the Wildlife Commission beginning in 2016, representing District 3 in southeastern Oklahoma.
The Commission also passed emergency chronic wasting disease (CWD) rules, which will now go to the Governor for approval, after a white-tailed deer tested positive for CWD in Texas. The deer carcass was recovered along a Texas road about 2.5 miles south of the Oklahoma border near the western Panhandle south of Felt, Okla. Although not inside Oklahoma borders, due to the proximity of this finding to Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) activated the CWD Response Plan that was jointly produced in 2019 with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.
Following recommendations from Wildlife Department staff and in accordance with the CWD Response Plan, the Commission established a Selective Surveillance Area (SSA) that runs south of U.S. 412 from Boise City to the New Mexico state line and south of U.S. 287 from Boise City to the Texas state line.
Upon the Governor's approval, the emergency rules will restrict the movement of deer and elk carcasses or parts from within the boundaries of the SSA to outside the boundaries of the SSA. Hunters who harvest deer or elk within the boundaries of the SSA must clean those animals before leaving the SSA. The following items are the only exceptions:
(A.) Antlers detached from the skull plate and antlers attached to a clean skull plate or cleaned skulls (all tissue removed);
(B.) Animal quarters containing no spinal materials, or meat with all parts of the spinal column removed;
(C.) Cleaned teeth;
(D.) Finished taxidermy products;
(E.) Hides or tanned products.
The Wildlife Department will continue monitoring for evidence of this disease within Oklahoma’s borders and will place a special emphasis on testing samples from hunter harvested deer and elk within the SSA. The Wildlife Department will be reaching out to hunters and landowners in the area who may be willing to volunteer samples from their deer or elk to be tested. The agency will provide freezer(s) and drop off instructions for samples as soon as possible.
CWD is an always-fatal neurological disease that affects the brains of deer, elk, moose, and other members of the cervid family, creating holes that resemble those in sponges. It’s important to note in this area of the state that CWD does not affect pronghorn antelope, and CWD transmission from wild animals to people or livestock has never been documented either.
No CWD-positive wild deer has been found within Oklahoma’s borders. But CWD has been found in two captive elk herds in the state. CWD has been confirmed in wild cervids in every state surrounding Oklahoma. In total, 30 states now have detected CWD within their borders.
The Wildlife Department has conducted CWD monitoring on hunter-harvested deer and elk and road-killed deer since 1999. The disease has not been detected in laboratory testing of tissue samples from more than 10,000 wild deer and elk from throughout Oklahoma.
Additional human health information relating to CWD is available at https://www.usgs.gov/centers/nwhc/science/chronic-wasting-disease#publications.
For more information on the disease, how it could affect hunting, and proper disposal of infected animals, go to https://www.wildlifedepartment.com/hunting/resources/deer/cwd.
In other business:
- Commissioners learned about fish and wildlife management activities in southwestern Oklahoma including an update on renovations at the J.A. Manning Fish Hatchery, planned improvements at Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area, and robust efforts happening across the state through the agency’s Wildlife Diversity Program.
- In his regular report, ODWC Director J.D. Strong cited activities in the Department’s various divisions since the previous meeting.
- Commissioners recognized employees for outstanding service to the hunters and anglers of the state: Game Warden Supervisor Todd Tobey for 35 years of service; Fisheries Senior Biologist Cliff Sager for 20 years of service; Game Warden Supervisor Bud Cramer Jr. for 20 years of service; Game Warden Supervisor Paul Welch for 20 years of service.
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 regular Commission meeting is set for Nov. 7, 2022, at the John D. Groendyke Wildlife Conservation Building, 1801 N. Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City.