This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Chronic Wasting Disease in the United States: How Have Hunters and State Wildlife Agencies Responded?




Cummings, Catherine

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis


Forestry and Wildlife Science


Chronic wasting disease (CWD), a fatal neurodegenerative disease that affects cervids, has been detected in 33 states across the United States. Currently there are no preventions, treatments, or cures for the disease in cervid populations, which makes the disease a significant looming threat for managers to address. Wildlife managers and decision-makers, due to presence and spread of CWD within states, are addressing the following challenges posed by CWD including negative impacts on cervid populations, drops in hunter participation, and related loss of revenue from hunting license sales. Impacts like the decline in hunting license sales could have serious repercussions for the way we fund conservation in the United States. Our first study sheds a greater light on some of the most pressing challenges and uncertainties facing wildlife managers, specifically examining what may cause hunters to stop hunting when CWD comes to their state. Our research studies hunter perceptions of risk, concern, and comfort associated with CWD in newly affected states. We found that hunter perceptions varied significantly, influenced by a variety of factors including demographics, hunting-specific demographics, hunting motivations, and proximity to detection. Thus, we concluded that hunter perceptions about the detection of CWD were not generalizable to a newly affected region. Additionally, we investigated the impact of state wildlife agency policies on annual CWD prevalence. States with written CWD management plans that had bans on baiting and natural cervid urine lures exhibited lower annual prevalence rates than states that permitted baiting. Conversely, states that had special CWD hunting opportunities (e.g. an additional season) and bans on rehabilitation of cervids within established CWD zones exhibited greater annual prevalence. These findings underscore the complexities of CWD management and emphasize the necessity of multifaceted approaches.