Sunday, May 09, 2010

Anaplasmosis – False Alarm

© By Othmar Vohringer

In my Whitetail Deer Passion blog column from April 10, “Anaplasmosis – A health risk to BC wildlife”, I reported about the disease and the measures taken by the government; testing cattle in the Nicola Valley, which was followed up by conservation officers culling 30 mule and whitetail deer in the area on March 8 to 20. The culling was done in an effort to find out if the disease has spread to ungulate wildlife.

Since then the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) stated that they have mistaken a harmless organism that behaves similar to Anaplasmosis. Understandably cattle ranchers in the Nicola Valley are not too happy about the mistake. Kevin Boon from the B.C. Cattleman Association said that ranchers would seek government compensation “…for the quarantine and extraordinary work of bringing in cattle from the range for blood testing.”

The organism mistaken for Anaplasmosis bears no health risk to animals and humans. Hunters to are not too happy about the culled deer; some even call it “a waste of natural resources”. However I would not be that quick to judge. The culling of the 35 deer in the area gives scientists the opportunity to check the deer for a far more deadly disease than Anaplasmosis. In recent years Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been rampant all over North America and there are fears that CWD has entered British Columbia. The scientists will now check the organs, skin and blood of the culled deer for any signs of CWD.

While the mistake is unfortunate and costly for the Lower Nicola Valley ranchers, and upsetting for some hunters I am glad the government acted swiftly and ordered testing. What if it had been Anaplasmosis? The quick action could have prevented Anaplasmosis from rapidly spreading. This in turn would have far more dire consequences in the long run for ranchers and hunters. Take Chronic Wasting Disease as an example. When it first appeared in a captive deer herd in Michigan 15 years ago officials played it down, saying it was only an isolated case and no need to worry. Well 15 years later I wish the American authorities would have worried and acted as swiftly as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency did with Anaplasmosis suspicion in the Nicola Valley.

Today Chronic Wasting Disease is present in every region of North America with little hope of any solution other than letting it run its course. The disease has put many deer and elk farmers out of business and in many regions decimated wildlife populations to below habitat carrying capacity and there is no end in sight. I believe firmly that the authorities did the right thing in ordering tests even if it turned out to be a mistake. In my opinion it is better to make a mistake than live with the consequences of doing nothing at all.

This column has been brought to you by Othmar Vohringer Outdoors

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