Chronic Wasting Disease: DGIF warns of growing threat

Department of Game and Inland FisheriesThe Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries would like to remind hunters about Chronic Wasting Disease, a serious threat to the deer in Virginia.

CWD has been detected in 37 deer from Frederick County and three deer from Shenandoah County since 2009. DGIF is continuing intensive CWD monitoring of the deer populations in Frederick, Shenandoah, Clarke and Warren counties this fall. In addition, DGIF has partnered with approximately 60 taxidermists located across the state to initiate a pilot CWD surveillance effort throughout the remainder of Virginia.

Older bucks are the most likely class of deer to be infected with CWD, therefore sampling deer submitted to taxidermists is an efficient method to monitor the deer population for the presence of the disease.

There are several actions that hunters can take to help reduce the spread of CWD, including:

  1. Don’t feed deer. Feeding deer congregates them together and speeds up the transmission of disease from sick to healthy deer.

  2. Check DGIF’s list of carcass-restriction zones if hunting out-of-state and determine if the deer, elk, or moose is allowed to be transported into Virginia legally as a whole carcass. Only certain parts of deer, elk, or moose harvested in areas included in DGIF’s list of carcass-restriction zones can be legally transported into Virginia. The infectious agent that causes CWD accumulates in the brain and spinal cord, therefore it is extremely important that these parts of a harvested deer, elk, or moose are not brought back into Virginia.

  3. Do not transport whole deer carcasses out of the CWD Containment Area (Clarke, Frederick, Shenandoah, and Warren counties).

  4. Do not use lures or attractants that contain natural deer urine. The use of natural deer urine products is illegal.

  5. Do not leave leftover parts of deer carcasses on the landscape, especially the brain and spinal cord. Leftover parts of a deer should be buried or double-bagged and placed in a trash receptacle for home pick-up or discarded at a landfill or compactor site.

CWD has been detected in 25 states and four Canadian provinces. The disease is a slow, progressive neurological (brain and nervous system) disease found in deer, elk, and moose in North America. The disease ultimately results in death of all infected animals. Symptoms exhibited by CWD-infected deer include, staggering, abnormal posture, lowered head, drooling, confusion, and marked weight loss.

There is no evidence that CWD can be naturally transmitted to humans, livestock, or pets; however, DGIF strongly advises against consuming meat from any game animal that appears ill prior to death.

Anyone who sees a sick deer that displays any of the signs described above should contact the DGIF Wildlife Conflict helpline at 1-855-571-9003 with accurate location information.

Please do not attempt to disturb or kill the deer before contacting DGIF.

More information on CWD can be found on the DGIF website at www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/diseases/cwd/ .

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