Bill’s Nature Stories of the Day

A Better Solution to Controlling CWD in Deer

 from the Rock River Times

By William O’Leary

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a fatal prion disease found in deer and elk similar to Mad Cow Disease. Prions are transmissible protein viruses. The disease attacks the brain and nervous system, causing deer to become emaciated, display abnormal behavior, lose coordination and eventually die in about two years. Ninety-three percent of deer that have been tested positive in Illinois appeared healthy for nearly two years, long enough to reproduce.

CWD can be passed by contact with or ingestion of infected body fluids (saliva, blood and urine). Prions from decomposing infected carcasses and body wastes may remain in the soils for many years. There has never been an instance of people contracting the disease from eating meat from infected deer. A World Health Organization panel of experts conclude that there is no scientific evidence that CWD can infect humans. The prion that causes CWD accumulates in the brain, eyes, spinal cord, lymph nodes, tonsils and spleen. There is no evidence that CWD can be transmitted to cattle, sheep or other livestock.

IDNR (Illinois Department of Natural Resources) has implemented some good regulations (and one very bad action) to help control CWD. When field dressing deer:

• Wear rubber gloves.

• Bone out the meat.

• Minimize handling of brain and spinal tissues.

• Wash hands and instruments thoroughly after.

• Avoid consuming brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils and lymph nodes.

• Dispose of inedible parts properly.

IDNR bans feeding of deer or placing salt blocks in other than domestic livestock areas.

The “very bad action” was to hire sharpshooters to reduce the size of deer herds in 10 northern Illinois counties to near extinction. Since CWD is not a communicable disease, this has no controlling effect on the disease. Nature may provide the same natural immunity that the Black Plague survivors did for the following generations in Europe. Perhaps the offspring of CWD-infected deer will develop immunity to the CWD prion. The money spent to hire sharpshooters would have been better spent for research on the disease. I believe the IDNR sharpshooter program may have ended, as Gov. Pat Quinn eliminated the IDNR forestry budget, putting hundreds of people out of work in forestry alone.

William O’Leary is a retired educator with master’s degrees in administration and geology with concentration in science electives. He and his wife, Nancy, have 16.79 acres dedicated to IDNR forestry.


Mystery of the Phantom Deer

from the Rock River Times

By William W. O’Leary

In the June 9-15 Rock River Times article, “John Deer: From foe to friend,” I wrote that there were no signs of deer in O’Leary Forests. My questioning of people in northern and central Illinois only netted a sighting of 25 deer in Ogle County by one person. This article is an update with corrections and reason why we don’t see the deer.

Since the June article, several people have reported to me that they have seen a deer or two at several locations in Winnebago County. A poacher/trespasser shot and field dressed a deer in Stand Three of our forest.

National Geographic and Animal Planet (television channels) rate deer as the most intelligent big game animal in North America. I believe the deer have altered their lifestyle to be more secretive to survive. Although I haven’t seen deer, I find the tracks of what appear to be a doe with fawn and a large buck in the main trail of our west forest and two lines of weeded trees in Stand One west. I believe the doe to be “Jane Doe” who can identify our planted trees. The large buck is probably a new recruit. Their tracks and trails were fresh in the first two weeks of July 2010. This is encouraging.

In the spring of 2009, I was hand-weeding trees on my knees. I stood up and nearly backed into two buck deer. At first I wondered why they were so close to me. When I looked toward our north fence and saw two men with guns, I got my answer. The bucks were using me as a shield. I regularly hear gun blasts in our west woods. The trails are paved with spent cartridges. Until recently, Sunday mornings were a time when poaching occurred in our west woods, which is in the City of Rockford. Poachers would park their cars among the church-goers at Silver Hill Church (license plates removed) because they knew that our family and staff would be off to church. This changed when City of Rockford Police began patrolling on Sunday mornings.

Although numerous people have contacted me to let me know they read my article in The Rock River Times, no one has brought me an orphaned fawn. I am repeating my request to save deer from extinction:

1. Put a moratorium on deer hunting for two years.

2. Prosecute poachers.

3. Contact me if you have an orphaned fawn.

While I can’t guarantee that poachers can be entirely controlled, we will do all in our power to protect the deer. The deer are free to roam.

William W. O’Leary is a resident of Rockford.