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Hunters cautioned about CWD

By Staff | Nov 16, 2011

Hunters going out into West Virginia’s thousands of acres of woodland this hunting season are cautioned to be on the look out for sickly animals. Chronic Wasting Disease has been reported in West Virginia over the past couple of years causing a scare to those who hunt and eat the venison they procure.

In order to assist hunters in the understanding of CWD, the WV Division of Natural Resources has released the following information:

What is CWD ? Chronic Wasting Disease?

CWD is a neurological (brain and nervous system) disease of deer and elk known to occur in limited geographical locations in North America. The disease belongs to a family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). These diseases are caused by an abnormal form of a protein called a prion. In deer and elk there is no practical test of live animals to detect CWD and there is no known treatment or vaccine.

How is it spread?

It is not known exactly how CWD is spread. It is thought that the most common mode of transmission from an infected animal is via saliva, but feces, urine and possibly other body secretions may transmit the infectious prion.

There is evidence that people moving live infected animals have spread the disease over long distances.

Is it dangerous to humans?

There currently is no convincing evidence that the agent of CWD affects humans. However, public health officials recommend that human exposure to the CWD agent be avoided as they continue to research the disease. This includes not eating meat from known infected animals or animals that appear sick.

Where has it been found?

As of June 2011, CWD has been detected in free-ranging deer and elk in portions of Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Wyoming, and Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada. In West Virginia, CWD has been found in 99 white-tailed deer. Testing of road-kill deer in all WV counties has been continuous since 2002.

The WVDNR, Wildlife Resources Section, in cooperation with the SE Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study at the University of Georgia and the Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory has tested over 12,200 deer from West Virginia for CWD and as of June 2011, the 98 Hampshire County deer and one Hardy County deer are the only animals found thus far to have the abnormal prion associated with CWD.

What is being done about the discovery of CWD in WV?

The discovery of CWD in Hampshire County, West Virginia, represents a significant threat to the state’s white-tailed deer. The disease does not create an immediate widespread die-off of deer, but if allowed to spread, will cause long-term damage to the herd.

The DNR is taking action to gather more information on the prevalence and distribution of the disease in the area surrounding all known infected deer.

The DNR also discourages supplemental feeding and baiting of deer statewide, and bans these practices in Hampshire County.

In addition there are restrictions on the disposal and transport of deer carcasses from within the containment area in WV (see WV CWD containment area), VA and MD where CWD has been detected. There are no proven solutions to combating CWD once present in free-ranging deer.

Thus, future management actions will be adaptive and based on the findings of current and future surveillance.

West Virginia Chronic Wasting Disease Containment Area: Includes all of Hampshire County, that portion Hardy County north of Corridor H and W.V. Rt. 55 from Wardensville to the Virginia Stateline and that portion of Morgan County which lies west of US Rt. 522.

It is illegal to bait or feed deer or other wildlife in the “Containment Area”

Hunters are prohibited from transporting dead cervids (deer, elk, etc.) or their parts beyond the boundary of the containment area except for the following: meat that has been boned out, quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached, cleaned hide with no head attached, clean skull plate (no meat or tissue attached) with antlers attached, antlers with no meat or tissue attached, and finished taxidermy mounts. Hunters may transport cervid carcasses that were not killed inside the containment area through the containment area.

What can hunters do?

If any hunter kills or observe a severely emaciated (very skinny) deer or a deer that is obviously sick, they are to contact the WV DNR Wildlife Resources Section office nearest to them immediately.

Do not feed or bait deer. These practices concentrate deer, increase the likelihood of spread of any disease present in the deer herd, and may introduce foreign contaminates via the feed or bait.

Harvest adequate numbers of antlerless deer to maintain deer populations in balance with natural food supplies. A deer population in balance with available habitat is healthier and better able to fight diseases.

Use caution in spreading urine based lures in the environment and avoid placing deer lures on the ground or on vegetation where deer can reach them. Placing them out of reach of deer still allows air circulation to disperse the scent.

Bring back only boned out meat or quarters and thoroughly cleaned skull plates and antlers. Anyone observing live deer or elk being transported in a truck or trailer is to notify the local DNR office as soon as possible.