WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), welcomed Walter Cook, Clinical Associate Professor of Veterinary Pathobiology, to the committee. Cook was testifying before the committee at a hearing titled “Examining the Impacts of Diseases on Wildlife Conservation and Management.” Cook spent over twenty years working and living in Wyoming.
Barrasso introduced Cook to the committee prior to his testimony. “Before we proceed to hear from our witnesses, I want to introduce Dr. Walter Cook, who currently serves as clinical associate professor of Veterinary Pathobiology at Texas A&M University, and a Veterinary Corps Officer in the U.S. Army Reserves.
“Dr. Cook’s distinguished career includes at least twenty years of service in Wyoming addressing the threat of wildlife disease. We are very grateful for that service.
“His experience in Wyoming includes: brucellosis coordinator at the University of Wyoming’s College of Agriculture; state veterinarian for the Wyoming Livestock Board; wildlife veterinarian for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department; regional veterinary coordinator for the Wyoming Department of Health; and large animal veterinarian at Tri-State Large Animal Hospital in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
“He has served as an adjunct assistant professor in the University of Wyoming’s Veterinary Science Department and lecturer at Laramie County Community College.
“Additionally, for seven years, he served as an instructor for the National Center for Biological Research and Training at Louisiana State University.
“Dr. Cook’s success should come as no surprise given he received his Ph.D. in Wildlife Epidemiology from the University of Wyoming in 1999.
“Dr. Cook, it is a privilege to welcome you as a witness today before this committee, and thank you for traveling to Washington,” said Barrasso.
In his written testimony, Cook highlighted Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a disease that directly affects the deer family in Wyoming. “The public remains confused and concerned about CWD. There are several causes for this. First, there is a lack of understanding about the potential impacts of the disease. Secondly, there is the feeling among some interest groups that regulations regarding CWD are overly stringent. Third is the fact that different states manage CWD differently. There are a lot of misconceptions about the impacts of CWD. A consistent avenue and reliable avenue for information dissemination is needed,” said Cook.
Cook also emphasized Wyoming’s progress toward resolving the conflict between domestic sheep producers and wildlife managers and enthusiasts in regards to Bighorn Sheep Respiratory Disease Complex (BHSRDC). Cook stated, “While clearly not absolute, there is an association with domestic sheep having close contact with BHS prior to an outbreak. This has caused a great deal of contention between domestic sheep producers and wildlife managers and enthusiasts. Wyoming was the first state to resolve this conflict. This occurred when State Veterinarian, Jim Logan and State Wildlife Veterinarian Tom Thorne brought all the various interest groups together (The Wyoming State-wide Bighorn/Domestic Sheep Interaction Working Group) to resolve this conflict.”
Cook concluded by stating the importance for more research to be done regarding wildlife disease management. “Finally, let me state that it is important that funding be made available to address wildlife disease management. I’m particularly concerned with the lack of federal funds available for research aimed at real world management dilemmas. There are federal funds supporting basic disease issues (like understanding what receptors are involved in certain pathogen invasion processes). However, there is a paucity of federal funds dedicated for research directed toward actual disease control which can also lead to increased human transmission,” said Cook.
For more information on Cook’s testimony and the hearing, click here.