The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resource’s Wildlife Health Program is a new branch of the department. It includes the state wildlife veterinarian and support staff in our new Wildlife Health Annex, a laboratory and diagnostic center for diseases and other health issues that affect Kentucky’s fish and wildlife.
Although the formal development of the Wildlife Health Program is new, Kentucky has been managing wildlife health and disease issues for a long time. KDFWR is a member of the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study and has been performing surveillance for chronic wasting disease in deer and elk since 2002. With the expansion of our department, we hope to better protect Kentucky’s resources by analyzing the health of our populations of fish and wildlife species. The Wildlife Health Program supports other programs within KDFWR and works with other state agencies such as the Departments of Agriculture and Public Health.
Maintaining a healthy population of wildlife is important for many reasons. Emerging infections in wildlife have led to declines in species and species diversity around the globe. Some types of wildlife pathogens can also affect people or livestock and therefore have important human health, welfare, and economic implications.
Managing for healthy wildlife populations involves: 1) preventing the introduction of new wildlife diseases; 2) controlling existing diseases; and 3) eradication of disease from a wildlife population in the state.