Wildlife Crime Seminar and a discussion about CWD (chronic wasting disease) in deer

john bruce discussing chronic wasting disease in deer

BDS discussing chronic wasting disease in deer

The 4th Wildlife Crime Seminar was held at P Division of Police Scotland, formerly knows as Fife Police HQ, in Glenrothes on Wednesday 6th November 2013.The evening had the biggest turnout to date with 106 in attendance and extra chairs were required to seat all who turned up. The seminar quickly got underway as the first speaker, John Bruce of the British Deer Society, took to the stage to talk about Chronic Wasting disease (CWD) in deer.

CWD is a highly infectious disease which has devastating effects on many populations of wild and farmed deer.  It is thought to have stared in mountains of Colorado, a landscape not so dissimilar to Scotland.  Currently, CWD is restricted to some states in the USA and Canada.

The CWD is a prion disease and belongs to the same group of diseases as scrapie, (affecting sheep and goats) and ‘mad cow disease’ (bovine spongiform encephalopathy). This group of diseases are known collectively as ‘transmissible spongiform encephalopathies or the short version, ‘TSE’. CWD is the most infectious of these groups of diseases, it kills all deer and there are no treatments of the disease.

The prion is transmitted in deer body fluids and body parts including urine, faeces, saliva, central nervous system tissue and meat. The prion can remain infectious for up to 10 years within soil and several years on stainless steel and it resists normal farm disinfection processes. Animals can take up to 18 – 24 months to exhibit any clinical signs after becoming infected.  The Infected deer loose condition and body fat and they also loose all fear of humans and cars so there are increases in road collisions

Several infected states in the USA are advising other states but federal government interest is very low. John Bruce said “if it doesn’t kill humans then there is no interest”.

Although there are no known cases in the UK a possible route of transmission could be through countryside users bringing in contaminated clothing and equipment. Specifically, hunters or stalkers who have hunted in parts of North America where CWD is present and have not decontaminated their kit before departing North America.

John continued, “If you are visiting the UK/USA/Canada you are asked to consider leaving behind any equipment, footwear and clothing you have used in North America. If you need to bring such clothing to the UK make sure it is scrupulously clean of all potential contamination such as soil, blood, faeces etc. Although thorough cleansing will not eliminate the risk of bringing CWD into the UK it will significantly reduce the threat.”

He also appealed to sporting agents to send information about CWD to their North American Stalking guests so they are aware of the disease. He asked that they check kit for cleanliness.

His closing line was “CWD a risk to every deer in the world”

For more information:




Information about prions http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/prions/

The evening continued with BASC Scotland’s Development Officer Kenny Willmitt discussing general licenses followed by Gill Hartley, a senior wildlife biologist for SASA (Science and advice for Scottish Agriculture) talking in detail about rodenticides.



The final talk of the evening was given by Ron Smith, chairman of central Scotland Branch of the BDS and Vice-chairman of Lowland Deer Network Scotland discussing DSC1 and 2. From April 2014 Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has a duty to review levels of competence among deer stalkers. If the voluntary uptake in training courses is not adequate and there are found to be problems for deer welfare there may be restrictions imposed on who can shoot deer unsupervised in the future. This review process is a provision of the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011.

Ron stressed the more people who can demonstrate competence through the recognised training route the less justification there will be for regulatory control.

Ron said, through the LDNS he “wished to create more dialogue. In Fife, in particular north east Fife, we would like to create a stalking and deer forum open to all with a meeting early in the New Year. Ron closed his talk by inviting people to visit the website to register their interest.


PC Ian Laing closed the seminar with a plea for information about the current issue of deer coursing with dogs and lamping.

Linda Mellor.

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