The mayor of Grenville-sur-la-Rouge is calling for the full decontamination of land on a breeding farm after wild deer were killed by the Ministry of Wildlife, near an area frequented by animals suffering from mad deer disease.
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“Put a fence around the enclosures and say everything is beautiful, it’s not acceptable to me,” says bluntly Tom Arnold, head of the small township of the Laurentians.
Their concerns relate to an outbreak of chronic wasting disease (CWD), also known as mad deer disease, which affected around 10 animals at the Harpur cattle ranch in 2018.
At the time, the 3,200 deer in the herd were killed and hunting was prohibited within a radius of 400 km2 to prevent other animals from contracting this fatal disease.
Quebec had even hired an American company to capture deer in an area off-limits to Quebec hunters to collect samples of their remains.
The farm’s decontamination plan, approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), also provided for fences in pens frequented by infected animals, among other measures.
However, Mayor Arnold says the soil potentially contaminated with the disease pathogen was not covered with soil. The CFIA did not respond to our questions about this.
Furthermore, the elected official is alarmed that a doe and her two fawns entered the farm’s property on October 29, in a stretch adjacent to the one designated “highly contaminated” by the CFIA.
A few hours later, agents from the Ministry of Wildlife slaughtered the three animals, before testing the female’s carcass. The result is not yet known.
Photo courtesy of Harvey Young
A female and two of her cubs were seen near ‘highly contaminated’ soil at Harpur Breeding Farm last week; the three animals were slaughtered. They were a few dozen meters from the deer enclosure that fell ill in 2018.
“Considering the susceptibility of the white-tailed deer to CWD and the history of the site, the [ministère] I didn’t risk it”, explains publicist Daniel Labonté.
Even though the Federal Agency says an investigation has not shown an increased risk of deer catching the disease in this area, Mayor Arnold is not at ease.
“Our lawyers are analyzing how we can force those who have the right to clean up”, he specifies.
According to the biologist of the Federation of Hunters and Fishermen of Quebec, Michel Baril, the danger of contamination near the old enclosures is very real.
Land runoff during heavy rains or the movement of hundreds of geese “wading through deer droppings” can drive the pathogen outside the perimeter.
“The risk is there,” he says, concerned about the devastation the disease can wreak among wild deer, as is the case in Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Photo courtesy of Harvey Young
A decontaminated land assessment report commissioned by the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is expected by the end of the year.
Harpur Farm did not respond to questions from the Record.
For its part, the Cerfs rouges du Québec association recalls the “huge” costs of decontamination that involve removing and replacing 5 cm of soil in such a large area.
“It is unthinkable that a private owner could take over this bill,” says President Gaétan Lehoux.
If this solution were chosen, Lehoux would want the federal government, not the producer, to be responsible for decontamination.
► Since the 2018 outbreak at Harpur Farmno other cases of mad deer disease have been identified in the province.
Which is wasting disease chronic?
- This results in rare and fatal progressive degenerative brain disorders.
- Currently incurable, it is due to the transformation of a protein into an altered form, called a prion.
- The brains of humans and animals with prion disease are damaged, resulting in degeneration of the central nervous system.
- Indestructible, the disease-causing protein spreads in feces, body fluids, and through direct contact. Propagation can be by contaminated water or soil.