By now, most Mid-South deer hunters have heard that a deer collected in late January in Mississippi’s Issaquena County tested positive for Chronic Waste Disease (CWS).
Mississippi now joins Arkansas among the 25 states in the U.S., and two provinces in Canada, with confirmed cases of CWD, along with cases reported in reindeer and moose in Norway and a small number of imported cases in South Korea not far from the site of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. The disease has also been found in farmed deer and elk.
This is serious business.
State wildlife agencies, hunters and even deer processors are worried, as well they should be. CWD is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) of mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, moose and reindeer. First recognized as a clinical “wasting” syndrome in 1967 in mule deer in northern Colorado, it is typified by chronic weight loss, including death.
The discovery of the 4 ½ -year old buck deer not far from the Mississippi River across from Louisiana has sent Mid-South wildlife agencies into emergency mode, even more so than they have been. Right off, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP) implemented its CWD Response Plan, banning the feeding of deer in five counties -- Claiborne, Hinds, Issaquena, Sharkey and Yazoo. The same restrictions were quickly placed on nearby counties in Louisiana where the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fishers has asked people to avoid feeding deer.
Cory Gray, chief of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Research Education and Compliance Division, says biologists from Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana are planning to meet soon and discuss future actions so each state can be on the same page.
“The discovery came at a difficult time to gather samples, as hunting season is nearly over in Arkansas with only a few bowhunters still looking for deer,” Gray said. “We are reaching out to hunting clubs in the southeast corner of the state to keep a sharp eye out for any deer showing signs of CWD and to report it immediately.
For sure, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) is involved in the mix.
“Our commission (Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission) will be considering extending our carcass importation restrictions to any cervid carcasses transported in from out of Tennessee,” said Mark Gudlin TWRA chief, wildlife and forestry division.
Doug Markham, the TWRA’s communications manager agrees.
“CWD and import restrictions will be among discussions at our next commission,” Markham said. “Among the items will be a discussion on whether to make all states fall under import restrictions, regardless of whether CWD has been discovered.”
Similar to mad cow disease, CWD is always fatal. It us caused by mutated prions creating holes in brain tissues and spreads through infected deer or material contact. This is no practical method for decontaminating prior-infected areas, at least for now.
Seven counties in north central Arkansas have reported CWD – Boone, Carroll, Madison, Marion, Newton, Pope and Searcy. Nebraska has the most county bans in the U.S. with 35, followed by Kansas with 24 and Wisconsin and Colorado with 20.
Gray says the AGFC plans to collect more hunter-harvested samples from the southeast corner of the state during the 2018-19 deer season. Other samples will come from target animals from public reports and roadkills.
“We are about to enter another season of collecting roadkill samples, and have already spoken to local biologists to increase that effort as much as possible,” Gray said.
For details about CWD developments in Mississippi, visit mdwfp.com, www.agfc.com/cwd in Arkansas and tnwildlife.org in Tennessee.
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