Yearly Archives: 2011

FWC Asks Hunters to Help Monitor Deer for Chronic Wasting Disease

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has not found any evidence of chronic wasting disease (CWD) after years of extensive testing of the state’s white-tailed deer population.

The FWC tested 910 free-ranging deer during the past year and 5,519 deer during the past nine years, with no CWD-positive results.

“We are fortunate that no Florida deer has tested positive for CWD. The effect this disease has had in other states is substantial,” Cory Morea, FWC’s deer coordinator and biologist, said. “We would like to obtain more samples of deer from areas adjacent to captive deer facilities, because the most likely way for CWD to be introduced into Florida is through the importation of deer from other states.”

CWD is a contagious neurological disease that has been found in captive and wild mule deer, white-tailed deer, moose and Rocky Mountain elk within several Western states and more recently Eastern states. The disease causes degeneration of the brain of infected animals, resulting in emaciation, abnormal behavior, loss of bodily functions and death.

Virginia and West Virginia are the only southeastern states where CWD has been detected.

To reduce the chances of CWD entering Florida, the state prohibits importing live deer unless they come from a herd that has been certified CWD-free for five or more years. Additionally, importation of any species of deer, elk or moose carcasses, with the exception of cleaned skull caps, antlers, tanned hides and deboned meat, is prohibited from 19 states and two Canadian provinces where CWD has been detected.

Chronic wasting disease has been detected in New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois, New York, West Virginia, Michigan, Virginia, Missouri, North Dakota and Maryland, and Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada. Visit the CWD Alliance website at for the most up-to-date CWD reporting.

“Early detection is the key to limiting the spread of the disease, if such an outbreak should occur in Florida,” Morea said.

The FWC is once again turning to hunters and members of the public this hunting season for assistance in helping monitor the state’s deer herd for CWD.

“We’re asking hunters to report any sightings of sick or emaciated deer, or deer found dead from unknown causes,” Morea said. “If you see such a deer, do not touch it, but instead contact us as soon as possible by calling toll-free, 866-CWD-WATCH (293-9282). Wildlife biologists will respond and, if necessary, collect deer tissue for testing.”

CWD WATCH is part of an aggressive monitoring program intended to detect CWD in Florida and minimize its impact, should it be found.

There is no evidence that CWD poses a risk for humans. However, public health officials recommend avoiding direct contact with any sick-looking deer or one that has died from unknown causes.

For more information about CWD surveillance in Florida, go to The website also offers links to wildlife and health agencies with more in-depth information about the disease.

DNR Looking for Comments on First CWD Contaminated Farm

The state’s natural resources department is looking for some feedback from the public on what to do with the former Buckhorn Flats game operation in Portage County–which was the first such farm to raise animals that tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease back in 2002.

The agency will be holding an open house on July 28 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at Almond-Bancroft School.

In March, the DNR purchased the property for $465,000 to ensure that the deer fence around the 65 acre property is maintained well enough to prevent wild deer from becoming infected with the fatal brain disease.

The whitetail deer operation had been operated by Stan Hall until 2006 when the USDA closed it down due to its CWD outbreak. Over 80 deer were infected with the fatal brain disorder as a result of the property’s mismanagement.

Meanwhile, the agency recently adopted a Chronic Wasting Disease Response Plan, which sets a goal to minimize the area of Wisconsin where CWD occurs and the number of infected deer in the state.

Since 2002, over 1,200 Portage County wild deer have been tested for CWD with no positives.

Test Results Negative for Chronic Wasting Disease in Iowa Deer

Tissue samples collected from more than 4,700 Iowa deer in 2010 and 2011 have all tested negative for chronic wasting disease (CWD).

The majority of the samples were collected during the fall firearms season from seven counties in northeast Iowa, which is the area nearest to the CWD outbreaks in Wisconsin and Illinois.

The DNR also focused on collecting samples in south central Iowa, north of the area where the positive CWD deer was found in the captive facility in Missouri.

Since 2003, Iowa has tested 38,031 wild deer and 1,350 captive deer and elk. All tests have been negative.

CWD Not Found In Montana Wild Game

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks tested more than 1,300 deer, elk and moose collected during the 2010-2011 hunting season and did not detect chronic wasting disease in any of the animals.

Montana’s detection program tests sick and road-killed deer, elk and moose, and has relied heavily on testing samples from hunter-harvested animals collected in “high risk” areas. CWD is a brain disease in deer, elk and moose that is always fatal.

Over the past 13 years FWP has tested more than 16,400 wild elk or deer in Montana for CWD and has not yet found any evidence of it.

CWD was diagnosed in 1999 in nine captive elk on an alternative livestock facility, or game farm, near Philipsburg. All the animals there were destroyed and the facility was quarantined.

“It is good news that we haven’t found CWD in Montana wildlife populations yet, but given that the disease occurs in wild elk, deer and moose in adjacent states and Canadian provinces we’ll keep testing. It’s likely we’ll find it here at some point,” said Neil Anderson, FWP’s Wildlife Laboratory supervisor.

FWP adopted a CWD Management Plan to help protect Montana’s wild deer and elk from infection and to manage the disease should it occur here.

If you should see sick, emaciated animals, please report them to the nearest FWP regional office, or the FWP biologist in your area.

For more information, visit FWP’s CWD Frequently Asked Questions at and search “CWD.”

Lichens May Aid in Combating Deadly Chronic Wasting Disease in Wildlife

MADISON, Wis. – Certain lichens can break down the infectious proteins responsible for chronic wasting disease (CWD), a troubling neurological disease fatal to wild deer and elk and spreading throughout the United States and Canada, according to U.S. Geological Survey research published today in the journal PLoS ONE.

Like other “prion” diseases, CWD is caused by unusual, infectious proteins called prions. One of the best-known of these diseases is “mad cow” disease, a cattle disease that has infected humans. However, there is no evidence that CWD has infected humans. Disease-causing prions, responsible for some incurable neurological diseases of people and other diseases in animals, are notoriously difficult to decontaminate or kill. Prions are not killed by most detergents, cooking, freezing or by autoclaving, a method used to sterilize medical instruments.

“When prions are released into the environment by infected sheep or deer, they can stay infectious for many years, even decades,” said Christopher Johnson, Ph.D., a scientist at the USGS National Wildlife Health Center and the lead author of the study. “To help limit the spread of these diseases in animals, we need to be able to remove prions from the environment.”

The researchers found that lichens have great potential for safely reducing the number of prions because some lichen species contain a protease enzyme (a naturally produced chemical) capable of significantly breaking down prions in the lab.

“This work is exciting because there are so few agents that degrade prions and even fewer that could be used in the environment without causing harm,” said Jim Bennett, Ph.D., a USGS lichenologist and a co-author of the study.

CWD and scrapie in sheep are different than other prion diseases because they can easily spread in sheep or deer by direct animal-to-animal contact or through contact with contaminated inanimate objects like soil. Chronic wasting disease was first diagnosed in the 1960s and has since been detected in 19 states and two Canadian provinces. CWD has been detected in wild elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer and moose in North America.

Lichens, said Johnson, produce unique and unusual organic compounds that aid their survival and can have antibiotic, antiviral and other chemotherapeutic activities. In fact, pharmaceutical companies have been examining the medicinal properties of lichens more closely in recent years.

Lichens – which are often mistaken for moss – are unusual plant-like organisms that are actually a symbioses of fungi, algae and bacteria living together. They usually live on soil, bark, leaves and wood and can live in barren and unwelcoming environments, including the Arctic and in deserts.

Future work will examine the effect of lichens on prions in the environment and determine if lichen consumption can protect animals from acquiring prion diseases.

The study, “Degradation of the disease-associated prion protein by a serine protease from lichens,” was published in PLoS ONE and is freely accessible to the public. The study was authored by USGS scientists Christopher Johnson, James Bennett and Tonie Rocke, as well as authors from Montana State University and the University of Wisconsin.