July 14, 2020

The Economic Effects of Chronic Wasting Disease

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There is no way for me in a relatively short amount of time, to be able to touch every aspect that Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) could have on our economy. I would though like to share with you a few statistics and perhaps do a bit of futuristic speculation.

First of all, let me explain that any of the figures I am going to share with you come from a report titled, “Economic Importance of Hunting in American“, done by the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. This report compiled data collected in 2001.

More than 13 million people ages 16 and over hunted in 2001 and hunting generated more than $67 billion to our economy. Over 575,000 jobs are directly the result of hunting. How does that compare to other businesses? That’s more jobs than the combined number of employees of all the top major airline companies in America.

On average, hunters spend $1,896 each per year on hunting. In retail sales alone, Texas leads all states with $1,761,285,042. The top ten states in retail sales on hunting gear are, Texas, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, New York, Alabama, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Tennessee and Louisiana, totaling sales of over $8.5 billion.

Just hunting deer, there were over $10.2 billion hunters hunting a total of more than 133 million days, spending over $10.6 billion on travel and gear. For 2001, the total economic impact from deer hunting alone was $27,885,673,982.

It would be safe to say that hunting, and deer hunting in particular, has a definite impact on the economy of America. So, let’s see or speculate for a moment because there are no hard facts available, on what kind of an impact CWD could have on our economy.

We know there are several factors that I can’t even imagine at this point in time, that would directly effect hunting when it comes to CWD. For example, how many extra dollars are spent each year to test and research CWD? I don’t know. You think of your own ideas.

I have been able to read some articles that contain speculation from some state’s Wildlife Departments, about the impact the disease might be having on licenses being bought by hunters.

These officials speculate that some hunters have stopped hunting deer completely out of fear of the disease and other reasons related to CWD. In some states, the number of licenses being sold each year is on the decline or holding steady. Few states are seeing increases.

What they are not able to determine is how many people have stopped hunting because of CWD – for whatever their reasons? Some officials have estimated that as much as a 15% reduction in hunters because of CWD. As I said, there is no hard evidence to support this 15%.

There is no known cure for CWD. Scientist believe that CWD is caused as the result of prions getting into the deer. The affects are very similar to mad cow disease. They also believe that humans cannot contract the disease from deer by being near or from eating the meat – there are no known cases of such.

What spreads the disease is believed to be from deer eating food that is on or near deer feces. Usually this is a result of too large a congregation of deer. Deer and elk farms need to be monitored closely for the disease and CWD has been found in moose as well.

Let’s speculate a moment. If nothing changes from present, i.e. no cures for CWD and it continues to spread at a similar rate, how is this going to effect our economy? How will it effect the deer herd?

Let’s suppose that we had determined that 10% of hunters across the board in the United States got scared of CWD and stopped hunting deer (we are not factoring in elk and moose hunting. Also, I am not ignorant enough to say that CWD is present in every state in the United States that has deer hunting. But for the purpose of discussion, this would mean that, according to the 2001 numbers, 1,027,200 hunters would no longer hunt, therefore they would not buy a hunting license.

If also for the sake of discussion, carrying this same 10% reduction across the board into all aspects of the economic impact this would mean several things. One of the more important things would be a loss of 57,500 jobs and total revenue reduction of $2.8 billion.

If for instance, too many hunters decided to quit hunting, how would that effect things? We know that most state’s major deer management plans have hunters as their number one management tool. How are we going to control deer growth? Things might begin to exponentially spiral out of control. If that happened, where’s the money going to come from to deal with communities overrun with diseased deer? Who will fund the extra needed research?

As you can see, CWD has a potential of creating serious havoc in many ways. I am not trying to say that this is going to happen nor am I attempting to instill panic and fear in people. I am only looking at possibilities when it comes to dealing with CWD and bringing to light the fact that hunting and the impact it has on this country is very substantial.

Tom Remington

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