Virginia becomes latest state to ban deer urine for use by sportsmen

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Effective July 1, the outdoorsmen of the Commonwealth of Virginia will no longer be able to use any scent attractants that are based on or utilize any formulation of deer urine.

These lures, typically drawn (or at least advertised to have been drawn) from does in estrus have been legally used for generations to help pull in those monster bucks. Nevertheless, the state has issued the ban under the looming threat of Chronic Wasting Disease.

Typically referred to simply as CWD, it is a fatal and contagious neurological disease that affects deer, elk, and moose and is generally considered fatal.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, CWD was first identified as a fatal wasting syndrome similar to Mad Cow Disease in captive mule deer in Colorado in the 1960s then jumped to wild herds in 1981. Since then it has been found in some 23 (now 24) states and affects mule deer, whitetail, elk and moose. However, control programs have dropped the number of states that it has occurred in recent years to just 15.

The infectious agent is believed to be passed from contagious animals in feces, urine, or saliva.

First spotted in a doe taken in Virginia in 2009, since then the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) has reported a total of seven animals with CWD out of more than 7,600 samples collected from sources ranging from roadside kills to farmed cervids and hunter's harvests.

However, even with the small amount of animals infected, the agency contends that many over the counter attractants come from states that may have much higher CWD rates-- thus theoretically posing a threat to the state's natural herds if introduced via hunting and scouting.

"The VDGIF is taking a pro-active approach on this issue and has banned possession and use until it is proven that prions are not spread in commercial deer urine products, rather than continue to risk introducing CWD to new areas until it is confirmed that urine attractants do spread prions," reads a statement from the agency.

"VDGIF's intent with this regulation is to protect our deer hunting heritage by ensuring that future generations have the same opportunities to deer hunt as are available to Virginians today and to protect the long-term health and stability of the Virginia deer herd. Both of these goals can be achieved, in part, by trying to minimize the areas in Virginia infected with CWD," it continues.

As such, the agency has taken up the strange policy that, while it is not illegal to buy or sell deer urine attractants, it is illegal to use them in the field. Further, this applies to tarsal glands taken from harvest deer and recycled by hunters as well as any other "feces, blood, gland oil, or other bodily fluid," of the animal.

Virginia is not the first state to ban the use of deer urine for hunters. Earlier this year Vermont issued a similar ban set to take effect next year while Alaska banned the practice for both deer and elk in 2012.

“People were using doe urine as a lure in Southeast Alaska, and research has come out showing urine could transmit CWD,” said Kimberlee Beckmen, a veterinarian with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “Most urine is produced on game farms, some in states where they have CWD, and there are no regulations or standards in place to ensure that scents are disease free. This is a way to completely eliminate that risk factor.”

For more information on Virginias ban, consult the DGIF website here.