CWD, EHD, and other maladies require loads of money for surveillance and monitoring, and other wildlife conservation needs suffer in the process.
Deer face many threats, including hunters, predators, vehicles, natural mortality, arterial worms, brain abscesses, cutaneous fibromas, other obscure parasites. Disease is another major concern. Chronic wasting disease and epizootic hemorrhagic disease — the latter is part of the hemorrhagic disease family along with bluetongue virus — are the big ones.
But CWD is by far the costliest. The cost for other diseases doesn’t begin to compare. “States spend money on EHD, tuberculosis (Michigan mostly) and rabies, but that money pales in comparison to what’s spent on CWD surveillance and monitoring,” said Kip Adams, chief conservation officer with the National Deer Association.
EHD might appear to be the deadliest deer disease, but it isn’t. Nor is it the costliest. Image by Missouri Department of Conservation
That begs the question: How much money is spent on CWD by wildlife agencies each year? According to Adams, published data by Dr. Russ Mason and Noelle Thompson puts the annual cost of CWD surveillance in the United States at $21 million.
With the recent detection of CWD in Kentucky, 32 states now have the disease. These states are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, and in some cases millions, to monitor and combat the spread of this malady. Even states that haven’t detected it are spending lofty sums in surveillance and preparation for the inevitable detection.
Without question, deer disease spending is hurting wildlife agencies and other wildlife conservation needs. The money has to come from somewhere. Some federal funding helps, but money derived from license sales and excise taxes are the main revenue streams in this fight.
“States have to take money from their operating funds to fund the CWD bill,” Adams said. “They’d much rather spend that money on habitat enhancement and hunter access but need to spend it on CWD for the future of the deer herd and all other wildlife management programs. That’s one reason the CWD Research and Management Act was so important. It provides federal funds to states to help fund CWD programs.”
States Don’t Profit from CWD
Contrary to popular conspiracies, state wildlife agencies don’t profit or otherwise benefit from CWD or federal funding to fight it. Rather, by the end of the fiscal year, states have less. In a recent report, Adams detailed just how much it costs.
Wisconsin spent $32 million in the first five years after its initial CWD detection. Idaho doles out $100,000 per year on detection efforts. In 2021, Louisiana spent more than $246,000. New York spends $300,000 annually and hasn’t found a positive case in wild deer since 2005.
Other states — such as Kansas, North Carolina and Wyoming — spend $500,000 to $1 million annually. Still, Michigan spends about $1.5 million, Texas allots $2.5 million, Pennsylvania budgets $2.5 million, and Minnesota spends $2.8 million annually. Missouri, Wisconsin, and others spend even more.
Obviously, CWD is costly. Depending on the state, it takes about $90 to $100 — and sometimes more — to test deer samples for CWD surveillance and monitoring. When analyzing hundreds or thousands of deer, the bill adds up quickly.
“CWD sucks, but we have to fight it to limit its spread while science catches up and finds a way to defeat it,” Adams said.
If not for CWD, that money would otherwise be spent on other things, such as land acquisitions, habitat improvement, and other hunting and wildlife conservation benefits. Deer diseases are costly to the tune of tens of millions each year, and that number will only increase in the years ahead.