The ongoing war against CWD deer

CWD infected deer disease

Minnesota DNR

As CWD (Chronic Wasting Disease) spreads across the country the men and women at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced a plan on Nov 30, 2018 to combat the spread of the disease. With 11 confirmed cases of the disease this fall alone the DNR planned to opened up two special hunting seasons this past December. The first special hunting season  just concluded with the resulting culling of over 420 deer that will be tested for CWD infection. This special late-season was so effective that another hunt was held in Fillmore County on Dec 28-30, 2018. The DNR staff will be reached out directly to landowners within the CWD management zone with information about the program and issued shooting permits to landowners interested in removing deer from their properties.

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a neurological disease of deer and elk producing small brain lesions in the infected. CWD was first identified as a fatal wasting syndrome in captive mule deer in Colorado in the late 1960’s and has been spreading sporadically in the wild population ever since. CWD can be highly transmissible within deer and elk populations. The mode of transmission is not fully understood, but evidence supports the possibility that the disease is spread through direct animal-to-animal contact or as a result of indirect exposure to prions in the environment (e.g., in contaminated feed and water sources). It is still unknown if humans are at risk to transmission of this disease but it is always better to be safe than sorry. To minimize your risk of exposure the CDC recommends that “hunters should consult with their state wildlife agencies to identify areas where CWD occurs and take appropriate precautions when hunting in such areas. Hunters and others should avoid eating meat from deer and elk that look sick or that test positive for CWD. Hunters who harvest deer or elk from known CWD-positive areas may wish to consider having the animal tested for CWD before consuming the meat (information about testing is available from most state wildlife agencies).

Fighting the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

As of Aug 1, 2018, the spread of CWD has been documented in 23 states and some provinces of Canada. Across the country states are starting to fight back against the disease. States such as N.C. where the N.C Wildlife Resources Commission has enacted a new rule for the 2018-19 deer hunting seasons prohibiting the import of whole deer carcasses and restricting importation of specific carcass parts to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease. “The cervid importation ban is to try to stop the spread of chronic wasting disease and hopefully prevent, or at least delay, its arrival in North Carolina,” said Brad Stanback, commissioner for District 9, which encompasses the state’s westernmost counties. “The disease has been spreading east for several years, and in some Western and Midwestern states, the deer population has been severely impacted.”

On Dec 24, 2018 the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) commissioner Jai Templeton announced emergency rules to prevent further spread of the disease. Owners of captive deer and elk herds will now be required to report their herd inventory and the location of any sick animals. Any transportation of captive deer or elk within the state also now requires prior approval and permit from the stat veterinarian as well as the USDA.

Other states such as Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming and many more have started to fight back as well. Each state has enacted new policies and special hunting seasons to help combat the disease. Although no unified effort has taken place to unite each state in combating the spread of the disease beyond their borders.

As of August 1, 2018 Nationwide, the overall occurrence of CWD in free-ranging deer and elk is relatively low. However, in several locations where the disease is established, infection rates may exceed 10 percent (1 in 10), and localized infection rates of more than 25 percent (1 in 4) have been reported. The infection rates among some captive deer can be much higher, with a rate of 79% (nearly 4 in 5) reported from at least one captive herd. This does not include states that have yet to establish testing for the disease as the spread may be much broader than reported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

CWD and Human Infections

Although Chronic Wasting Disease has yet to make the jump to infecting the Human population one only needs to look at the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy Disease (BSE or Mad Cow Disease) to see how within established disease areas a mutation could occur. BSE Just like CWD is caused by a misfolded protein known as a prion, that upon contact with a normal protein sets off a chain reaction in the brain to replicate the diseased prion.

CWD May be one of the greatest threats to the current White-tailed deer and Elk population in the coming years, and without a clear set plan and goals to combat the spread of the disease we may be in for more deer that we can’t chew. It’s also important than ever for hunters to help identify and report animal diseases to your local department of wildlife to ensure that it is documented to help prevent the spread.

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Posted in: Pro Staff Blog
Gregory Beckman

About the Author:

Hi, I am Gregory Beckman, as the main owner of Military Hunting and Fishing let me tell you a little bit more about myself. I am currently an active duty member in the United States Coast Guard. I have been privileged to traveling the world. My experiences have shaped the way that I see the world and my memories will stick with me for a lifetime. Although I may not live in the country, the country lives in me. Traveling the world I have had the chance to experience the wonders of nature in many different places, meeting many different people and tasting wild game that the normal person would not get to experience. Although these experiences have kept me away from home, it has instilled a deep passion of hunting and fishing in my blood. Thank you for joining our site, and I look forward to interacting and sharing stories of our hunting adventures. Gregory A. Beckman