Let’s Not Overreact…At Least For Now

I remember a time back in college (late 70s/early 80s) when being promiscuous with the opposite sex had its risks — gonorrhea, syphilis or a host of other sexually transmitted diseases, but the cost of such exposure usually meant a visit to the doctor and a prescribed course of antibiotics.   Certainly the risks were unpleasant, but the outcome was generally not deadly if dealt with properly by the victim.

Then sometime in the early 80s most of us started to hear about monkeys passing some scary disease to humans.   Suddenly, many responsible adults realized that having casual sex or even touching someone else’s blood could potentially have dire consequences.   The disease was HIV, or better known as “AIDS,” and the very thought of being exposed to this emerging disease changed the way most folks conducted our lives out of fear — and justifiably so.   Life could no longer be lived as it once was…unless you were willing to accept the risks that went along with sexual promiscuity or being careless with another person’s bodily substances (blood, urine, fecal matter).

In the beginning, it was the fear of the unknown about HIV.   What we knew was that it killed some people who were exposed.   We also knew the disease acted in different ways depending on the exposure.   Bottom line was that in one way or another…the newly discovered disease that emerged into our lives over a quarter century ago has changed the way each of us now live our lives today.

Now let’s look at some recent disease concerns that are spreading through sportsman ranks like wildfire these days.   First it was CWD (or Chronic Wasting Disease) and now we recently learned the first deer in Minnesota has been detected with Bovine Tuberculosis.   Let’s face it…when you take your deer into a registration station and it gets examined for disease in ways like never before…it makes you stop and think.   On one hand research and studies are an important and necessary function in wildlife management, so I accept this.   On the other hand, being a sportsman and living the same old careless lifestyle could have consequences…if meat isn’t cooked thoroughly or handled in the most aseptic manner.

First off, recent studies have shown that eating deer that has been properly handled in the field and in the kitchen represents a very minimal risk to the sportsman and their family.   This is true for both CWD and with Bovine TB found in deer.   Officials are quick to point out that Bovine TB is not a major health concern to the hunter who brings home meat from an infected animal, they just urge continued cooperation by sportsmen to track the spread of these diseases by allowing testing. 

The fact that only one out of hundreds of deer tested this past fall tested positive for Bovine TB should certainly be encouraging, at least to sportsmen.   Farmers and ranchers in Northern Minnesota, on the other hand, might feel more devastated because it could mean quarantined stock and a statewide ban on the export of livestock across state lines.   Moreover, if you’re a state official trying to eradicate the disease by eliminating the contaminated livestock herds…hearing that deer may also be spreading the disease beyond the farm-lot can’t come as encouraging news.   Still, everyone is trying to stay optimistic that Bovine TB can be controlled with the proper measures taken early by farmers, veterinarians and sportsmen in Minnesota.

So, within the past few months we now learn that Minnesota has joined Michigan, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico as states also fighting this respiratory disease.  Michigan, in fact, has already dealt with this TB outbreak for over a decade in their deer population so sportsmen can take some solace in the fact it’s been demonstrated that it can be managed and does not have to severely impact the way sportsmen enjoy the whitetail resource.

If you’re like me, it seems whenever a new disease is discovered or determined to be present in our wildlife population it somehow distracts from the innocence of the outdoor world we previously enjoyed.   I know for a fact it also scares many un-enlightened sportsmen who never take the time to learn that the diseases we hear about in our wildlife don’t have to disrupt the way you enjoy life as a hunter.

Much like we began to learn back in the 80’s…sex wasn’t without risk that could kill us.   Of course, taking precautions by being more selective on sex partners and using condoms to prevent the exchange of body fluids, our society learned to manage those disease risks associated with a changing world.   Same holds true now for sportsmen in an ever-changing world with CWD, Bovine TB, along with other wildlife-borne diseases, such as Tularemia.   By staying informed, acting rationally and taking the proper safeguards in meat handling, sportsmen can not only minimize any disease threats…but fortunately we have to change very little in how we enjoy those wildlife resources for the future to come.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.