Senator calls for double-fencing to protect wild white-tail deer

Officials hope to prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease

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DES MOINES – To reduce the threat of Chronic Wasting Disease being transmitted Iowa’s deer herd, legislation has been introduced to require double fencing of deer farms and shooting preserves where white-tail deer are kept.

Senate File 59, introduced by Senate Natural Resources Committee Chairman Dick Dearden, D-Des Moines, Jan. 28, would increase the height requirement for fences around deer farms and preserves from eight feet to 10 and add a requirement for 10-foot secondary fence. He wants to make sure the captive deer are kept in as well as prevent nose-to-nose contact between the captive deer and the wild herd.

Dale Garner, Iowa Department of Natural Resources wildlife bureau chief, hadn’t seen the bill Tuesday afternoon, but said the double-fencing would help.

“It’s easy for me to recommend that because I don’t have to pay for it,” he said after briefing the House Natural Resources Committee on CWD. Fencing around a Pottawattamie County deer farm where CWD was found cost $97,000, he said.

Dearden isn’t worried about the cost of the fences as much as the cost of CWD in the wild deer herd.

“Look at the cost to the Iowa economy” if CWD spread into the wild deer herd, he said. “How expensive would it be if we lost our (wild) herd?”

The DNR says deer hunting annually generates $137 million, has a $214 million economic impact and supports 2,838 jobs in Iowa. It also generates $15 million in federal tax revenue and another $14.7 million in state taxes, the department said.

The DNR spends more than $300,000 a year testing deer carcasses for CWD. There is no live test. Dearden said 42,000 tests of wild deer have not found one case of CWD. In tests of 4,000 captive deer, 13 returned positive for CWD.

Although fences will help reduce the risk of spreading CWD to the wild herd, there are no easy answers, Garner said.

“It’s a long-term disease you don’t solve in a couple of days,” Garner said. “When you get into this, you’re in for the long haul.”

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