Yearly Archives: 2014

No Detection of Chronic Wasting Disease in New York Deer

Testing of more than 2,500 samples of deer statewide found no deer infected with Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced today. CWD continues to pose a threat to New York’s wild white-tailed deer as Pennsylvania discovered CWD in both captive white-tailed deer and wild, free-ranging white-tailed deer in 2012. Since 2002, DEC annually has tested hunter-harvested white-tailed deer for CWD. The last confirmed case of CWD in New York was in 2005.

“Under Governor Cuomo’s NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative, New York State hunting relies on a healthy deer population and CWD could devastate the state’s wild deer herd,” said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. “DEC thanks cooperating hunters, meat processors and taxidermists that contributed samples for testing. Successful CWD surveillance depends on all of us. By testing both sick and healthy-appearing deer, DEC looks to identify the earliest intrusion of CWD into New York.”

Public reporting of sick and abnormal deer throughout the year is also important because these animals are collected and tested for CWD. DEC’s Wildlife Health Unit conducts full necropsies (animal autopsy) to determine the source of illness or cause of death on many species, including deer.

In 2012, DEC revised the state CWD surveillance program to include information on population density, deer age and sex, and risk factors, including border counties with Pennsylvania. The goal was to collect samples from the highest risk areas. For further details on the initiation and timeline of DEC’s CWD surveillance program, visit DEC’s website.

Hunters going to Pennsylvania and other CWD-positive states are not permitted to bring back whole carcasses. Prions, the protein that causes CWD, concentrates in tissues like the brain and spinal cord and remain infectious to other deer. It is permitted to bring meat and cleaned skull caps and capes back from a successful hunt. The purpose of this is to prevent the importation of CWD-infected material.

CWD is a fatal disease of deer, elk and moose that is now found in 22 states. It is in the family of diseases known as “transmissible spongiform encephalopathies” or TSEs, which includes “Mad Cow” disease. No human cases of CWD have ever been reported, according to the Federal Centers for Disease Control.

DEC continues to conduct its educational campaign to inform hunters and the public about CWD. Prevention is the only proven management strategy for wildlife diseases. Therefore, hunters are encouraged to protect New York’s deer herd by knowing and following the regulations for hunting outside of New York. Deboning meat will remove the highly infectious parts. In addition to carcasses, urine can also contain prions that can infect deer. Avoid using deer urine or choose synthetic alternatives. Prions can bind to soil and remain infectious to wild deer for years.

Governor Cuomo’s NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative is an effort to improve recreational activities for sportsmen and sportswomen and to boost tourism opportunities throughout the state. This initiative includes the streamlining of fishing and hunting licensing and reducing license fees, improved access for fishing at various sites across the state and increasing hunting opportunities in various regions. This year, Governor Cuomo unveiled the NYS Adventure License, which allows outdoor enthusiasts, boaters, anglers and hunters to consolidate their recreation licenses and benefits onto their New York State Driver’s License, and the NYS Adventure License Plates, featuring nine plate designs available for free to those buying new lifetime hunting, fishing or park licenses in 2014.

In support of this initiative, this year Governor Cuomo has proposed creating 50 new land access projects to connect hunters, anglers, bird watchers and others who enjoy the outdoors to more than 380,000 acres of existing state and easement lands that have gone untapped until now. These 50 new access projects include building new boat launches, installing new hunting blinds and building new trails and parking areas. In addition, the Governor’s 2014-15 budget proposes to: include $4 million to repair the state’s fish hatcheries; limit the liability of landowners who allow recreational activities on their properties, which could open up vast, untapped resources for additional hunting, fishing and many other recreational pursuits; and allow crossbow hunting once again in New York State.

It is also illegal to feed deer. Concentrating deer at a feed or bait pile concentrates animals and helps spread disease. Report sick deer or deer behaving abnormally to your nearest DEC office. For a listing of regional DEC offices, visit DEC’s website.

MDC testing results show no new cases of chronic wasting disease

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Following the testing of 3,666 free-ranging deer harvested during and after the 2013 deer-hunting season, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) has detected no additional cases of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Missouri free-ranging deer.

The total number of confirmed cases in Missouri free-ranging deer remains limited to 10 found in 2012 and early 2013. All were from a small area of northwest Macon County near where CWD was confirmed in 10 captive deer in 2012 at a private hunting preserve. Missouri’s first case of CWD was discovered in 2010 in a captive deer at private hunting facility in southeast Linn County owned by the same private hunting preserve.

“While I am cautiously optimistic that these latest test results suggest our efforts to limit the spread of CWD may be working, the threat of this infectious disease remains significant,” said MDC State Wildlife Veterinarian Kelly Straka. “Therefore, continued surveillance is important.”

Of the 3,666 deer tested, 1,520 were from Department’s CWD Containment Zone of Chariton, Randolph, Macon, Linn, Sullivan, and Adair counties. Of the 1,520, 206 were from the 30-square-mile CWD Core Area around the private hunting preserve in Macon County where cases of the disease were discovered in captive deer.

The remaining 2,146 test samples were gathered from deer harvested outside of the six-county Containment Zone as part of MDC’s ongoing statewide sampling effort.

As done in the past two years, MDC again worked with local landowners during January and February to harvest and test 147 free-ranging deer as part of 206 samples collected in the CWD Core Area. The effort was done to monitor infection rates and help limit the spread of the disease from deer to deer by reducing local deer numbers.

“More than 90 percent of Missouri land is privately owned, so landowners are vital to deer management and to our ongoing efforts to limit the spread of CWD,” Dr. Straka said. “We greatly appreciate the cooperation of local landowners in the CWD Core Area who participated in this effort. Their sacrifice in temporarily reducing local deer numbers is helping to protect the health of deer throughout the state.”

She added that MDC will continue working with hunters and landowners to test harvested free-ranging deer for CWD during future deer seasons.

Missouri offers some of the best deer hunting in the country, and deer hunting is an important part of many Missourians’ lives and family traditions. Infectious diseases such as CWD could reduce hunting and wildlife-watching opportunities for Missouri’s nearly 520,000 deer hunters and almost two million wildlife watchers.

Deer hunting is also an important economic driver in Missouri and gives a $1 billion annual boost to state and local economies. Lower deer numbers from infectious diseases such as CWD could hurt 12,000 Missouri jobs and many businesses that rely on deer hunting as a significant source of revenue, such as meat processors, taxidermists, hotels, restaurants, sporting goods stores, and others. CWD also threatens the investments of thousands of private landowners who manage their land for deer and deer hunting, and who rely on deer and deer hunting to maintain property values.

Chronic wasting disease infects only deer and other members of the deer family by causing degeneration of the brain. The disease has no vaccine or cure and is 100-percent fatal. CWD is spread both directly from deer to deer and indirectly to deer from infected soil and other surfaces. Deer and other cervids can have CWD for several years without showing any symptoms. Once symptoms are visible, infected animals typically die within one or two months. Once well established in an area, CWD has been shown to be impossible to eradicate.

For more information on CWD, including what MDC is doing to limit the spread, and what hunters and others can do to help, go online.

Mysterious Marathon County case underscores lack of knowledge of CWD

ELAND — It’s been almost five months since a prize buck on a game farm in eastern Marathon County tested positive for chronic wasting disease, and investigators are as befuddled about the case today as they were in November.

The game farm, Wilderness Whitetails, and its affiliated breeding farm in Portage County have followed all of the protocols set forth by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection intended to prevent the spread of the deadly disease. Wilderness Whitetails is a 351-acre, family-run hunting ranch that started business 37 years ago, owner Greg Flees said in December. The disease was found in a routine test after a hunter killed the animal.

The herd had been “closed” for more than a decade, Flees said, meaning that no deer had been brought into the operations from the outside. The breeding farm is double-fenced, which keeps wild deer from getting close to the captive animals to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease, but the hunting preserve is not, in accordance with state regulations.

No deer had tested positive on the preserve before; it was the first new CWD-infected deer tested on any Wisconsin farm since October 2008, and the farthest north a captive deer had been found to have the disease. The infected buck was one of the preserve’s 270 deer, game for people who pay for the right to hunt them.

Flees cooperated fully with the investigation of how the buck got sick, said Paul McGraw, state veterinarian. But even with Flees’ help and subsequent investigative efforts, McGraw said he doesn’t think there ever will be an answer as to how that buck got sick — which leaves hunters in eastern Marathon County nervous.

“This guy has got a real good record,” McGraw said. “This particular farm has done a lot (to prevent CWD exposure). There’s a low risk that CWD is in the breeding herd.”

The case underscores just how little is known about CWD, and the knowledge gap makes it difficult to manage the disease.

“There’s not been a lot of research done on it,” McGraw said. “And there are not a lot of good answers.”

CWD upswing

The Wilderness Whitetails case comes at a time when the disease continues to run rampant among wild deer in Iowa County and western Dane County, where the state Department of Natural Resources says that one in four adult male deer has the fatal disease. The prevalence rate of 25 percent is based on 2013 test results from that deer management zone. The rate has more than doubled since 2002, when 8 percent to 10 percent of bucks had the disease.

The CWD stakes are high in a state that places a premium on hunting socially, culturally and economically. In 2010, deer hunting licenses and permits generated $22.7 million for the DNR, according to PolitiFact Wisconsin. Estimates of the overall economic impact to the state as a whole exceed $1 billion.

CWD affects elk and moose as well as deer, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It was first recognized in 1967 and belongs to a family of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. Other TSEs include bovine spongiform encephalopathy in cattle, scrapie in sheep and goats and Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease in humans. CWD, though, is distinct from those other diseases, the USDA said.

The growth of CWD in southern Wisconsin, coupled with the Wilderness Whitetails case, is troubling, said Marcell Wieloch, 71, of Mosinee, a longtime deer hunter with gun and bow.

“The elephant in the room, the fear that some people have, is if they shoot that deer, and eat that deer, sooner or later it’s going to transfer to Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease,” Wieloch said. “You start bringing those threads together.”

No one understands specific causes of CWD. Most scientists believe, however, that TSE diseases are caused by proteins called prions. And scientists agree that CWD often is transmitted directly from one animal to another through saliva, feces and urine containing abnormal prions, according to the USDA.

Records show the buck killed at Wilderness Whitetails never came in contact with another infected deer, so it’s a mystery as to how it contracted CWD. Three possibilities include that the buck got the disease spontaneously; that it came from exposure in the herd of the hunting preserve or breeding farm; or that it picked up the disease in the environment, McGraw said.

“We don’t know if there are prions in the soil, whether it can survive a while in the environment,” McGraw said. “We don’t see any scientific way of naming any one of these possibilities as the reason (the Wilderness Whitetails buck had the disease.)”

Unknown future

The state DNR, which oversees CWD policy among wild deer, uses one main tool to quash the disease. It prohibits deer baiting and feeding in areas where CWD has been found in deer. Marathon County already was under the restriction because farm deer in Portage County had been tested as CWD positive. The Wilderness Whitetail case extended the region to Shawano and Waupaca counties, said Tami Ryan, chief of the DNR’s wildlife health program.

The DNR also will step up its surveillance for CWD in the area to get a better idea how prevalent the disease is.

“There is no CWD in the wild deer in Marathon County, as far as we know,” Ryan said.

Did finding CWD in a captive herd increase the potential for the disease to spread to wild deer? It’s a concern, Ryan said, but there is no way to know.

Wieloch would like to see the DNR take a more aggressive stance against CWD. Other states, such as Colorado, he said, have helped limit its spread by using sharpshooters to kill deer in CWD zones.

Ryan said one reason the DNR hasn’t taken more drastic steps is because of the public and hunters as a whole, have opposed those measures.

“We respond by social influence and outlook, attitude and opinion,” Ryan said. “The tide is shifting a little bit. Based on our past experience, we’re seeing more public sentiment that wishes we were doing more, taking a stronger stance.”

VDGIF Recognizes Assistance of Hunters, Reports Two New CWD Positives in Frederick County

Two new cases of chronic wasting disease (CWD) were detected in Frederick County during the 2013 hunting season. One deer, a 2.5 year old doe, was killed on November 30, 2013, in close proximity to the cluster of five CWD-positive deer harvested in Virginia since 2009. Additionally, a 1.5 year old buck was killed on November 23, 2013, approximately 10 miles southeast of the previously reported cluster. The location of this positive is not surprising, given that many male white-tailed deer disperse miles from their place of birth during their second year. Due to the proximity of this new positive to the eastern border of the current Containment Area (CA), changes to the CA boundaries are expected for the 2014 hunting season.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) would like to thank all of the hunters in Frederick and Shenandoah counties for their excellent cooperation during CWD sample collection this past fall. VDGIF plans to continue collecting CWD samples on the first three Saturdays of regular firearms season during future hunting seasons, along with other management options implemented after the initial detection of CWD in 2009. These management actions include: prohibiting the feeding of deer year-round both in and near the CA, prohibiting the movement of deer carcasses and parts out of the CA (with exceptions), restricting the disposal of deer wastes from the CA, prohibiting the rehabilitation of deer in the CA, and maintaining liberal seasons and bag limits on private lands in an attempt to reduce the deer population. The CA is currently localized to western Frederick and Shenandoah counties, but will likely be expanded for the 2014 hunting season.

As of February, 2014, CWD has been detected in 23 states and two 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 the animal. 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. More information on CWD can be found on the VDGIF website.

Second Mule Deer from 3F2 Tests Positive for CWD

White-tailed Deer from 3F2 Tests Positive for CWD

A second deer taken from unit 3F2 during the 2013 deer gun season has tested positive for chronic wasting disease.

A hunter shot the adult whitetail buck in western Grant County and submitted the head for testing as part of the hunter-harvested surveillance program. Testing was performed at Michigan State University, and verification of initial tests results are pending from a national lab in Ames, Iowa. In addition, results from the remaining 3F2 samples, as well as all samples from the eastern third of the state, should be known in another month.

This is the fifth deer to test positive for CWD since 2009, and all were from the same general area within unit 3F2 in southwestern North Dakota.

The hunter-harvested surveillance program annually collects samples taken from hunter-harvested deer in specific regions of the state. In addition to unit 3F2, samples during the 2013 deer gun season were collected from units in the eastern third of the state.

CWD affects the nervous system of members of the deer family and is always fatal.