I would like to thank Senator Crapo for holding this hearing. As we have witnessed the devastating health, economic, ecological and environmental impacts of similar transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) diseases, such as scrapie and mad cow disease, it is disturbing to have such a serious and mysterious ailment affecting both wild and captive herds of deer and elk across our country.
I am thankful that there have not been any large outbreaks of chronic wasting disease discovered in my State of Oklahoma to date, although one captive elk herd in Oklahoma has been diagnosed with the disease. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation first began a cooperative project in 1999 to test hunter-harvested wild deer and elk with the help of the USDA. So far nearly 400 deer and elk have been tested for chronic wasting disease and all test results have been negative.
Continued efforts to research the cause and spread of chronic wasting disease are important as well as implementation of the best methods for isolating and eliminating infected cervids. I am particularly encouraged that research in this area has been receptively facilitated by hundreds of cooperative hunters. Oklahoma plans to expand its existing surveillance program. Hopefully, with the cooperation of Federal and State agencies, private individuals and organizations, we will develop even better practices for managing infected wildlife, controlling the spread of chronic wasting disease, and minimize its occurrences and effects.