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 with Rob Miskosky

Urine-based Hunting Lures: Are They Ok to Use?

I first wrote about the use of urine-based hunting lures and scents years ago after chronic wasting disease (CWD) first raised its ugly head in Alberta. At that time, little was known about this mysterious disease that was killing deer at an alarming rate. What was known, however, was that saliva, feces and urine all contributed to the spread of the disease. Which brought to question, why would hunters be allowed to buy deer and elk urine-based products off the shelf at their local hunting supply store to take out into the wild to spread around? It didn’t make sense.

In 2017, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA)—of which Alberta Environment and Parks is a member—developed a set of concise best management practices (BMPs) for “prevention, surveillance, and management of CWD.” One of the recommendations was to “Eliminate the sale and use of natural cervid urine-based products.” Banning urine-based products is the only practice that would completely reduce the risk of importing CWD via these products, they said.

So, many states and provinces banned the use of these products (some well before), much to the chagrin of deer and elk farmers who collected urines at their facilities to send to market. It was a cash cow suddenly gone bad.

In Alberta, urine-based lures were never banned; however, I can confirm the discussion certainly took place.

What wasn’t known then was what an acceptable level of infectious proteins (i.e., prions) known to transmit CWD in urine was, so a precautionary approach was taken in some jurisdictions, and some early bans were instituted with some suggesting, “until it is proven that prions are not spread in commercial deer urine products.”

But now, companies like Tink’s and Wildlife Research Center, makers of urine-based hunting lures and scents, are yelling from the rooftops that the proof is here.

The two leading manufacturers of hunting lures joined together to fund a study with CWD Evolution, a company founded by Dr. Davin Henderson, whose work “focused on understanding the pathogenesis and replication potential of chronic wasting disease prions affecting deer and elk. He helped develop novel methods for the sensitive detection of CWD using RT-QuIC (Real Time Quaking Induced Conversion) in many sample types including deer urine.”

“We have made major investments as a company to ensure that our products are safe,” said Sam Burgeson, President of Wildlife Research Center. “It is frustrating that government regulators are either ignoring these advances or are unaware that these technologies are readily available. Our industry has not stuck our heads in the sand on this issue but have rolled up our sleeves and taken action to address the very real CWD concerns.”

According to Dr. Henderson’s website, “While the risk of urine-based scents spreading CWD is virtually zero, there is a lot of false and misleading information driving policy and regulations regarding urine-based scents and CWD. Unfortunately for hunters, some states have acted on this bad information and actually banned the use of urine-based scents. The test (RT-QuIC) verifies that no detectable levels of CWD are found and provides a final confirmation that the products are safe for use and without risk of spreading CWD.”

And game farmers are jumping on board with Henderson’s company, paying for the test and claiming on their websites that their facility is “scientifically tested and CWD free”. In fact, “beginning in 2020, Tink’s and Wildlife Research Center bottles will carry the ‘RT-QuIC Tested’ logo on their labels for easy identification.”   However, “virtually zero” isn’t “zero” and I have to wonder, are we just pissing around (pun intended) with a disease that we still have a lot to learn about?

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