New Hampshire’s white-tailed deer population once again showed no evidence of chronic wasting disease (CWD), based on monitoring data gathered during the 2009 hunting season. New Hampshire Fish and Game Deer Biologist Kent Gustafson recently received results from a federally certified veterinary diagnostic laboratory that indicate that all the deer tissue samples taken during last fall’s hunting season tested negative for CWD. A total of 439 tissue samples were tested.
Chronic wasting disease is a neurological disorder that is fatal to white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose, but the World Health Organization has concluded that there is no evidence that people can become infected with CWD.
During the fall 2009 deer hunting season, New Hampshire Fish and Game with significant support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services located in Concord, collected heads and extracted brain-stem samples from hunter-killed deer across the state for testing. As a result of these efforts, 3,164 deer have been tested in New Hampshire since testing began in 2002.
Chronic wasting disease was first identified in 1978 and remained isolated in Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska for about a decade. CWD has been found as far east as New York, Virginia and West Virginia, bringing the disease far closer to New Hampshire’s borders. To date, CWD has been detected in wild or captive deer or elk in a total of 19 states and provinces. These include Alberta, Canada; Colorado; Illinois; Kansas; Michigan; Minnesota; Missouri, Montana; Nebraska; New Mexico; New York; Oklahoma; Saskatchewan, Canada; South Dakota; Utah; Virginia; West Virginia; Wisconsin; and Wyoming. A nationwide effort is underway to prevent further spread of the disease. This effort includes collecting annual samples of deer tissue as part of ongoing monitoring and surveillance efforts and restricting the transport of potentially infected animals, carcasses or tissues.
People who make hunting trips to the 19 CWD-positive jurisdictions listed above can help keep New Hampshire CWD-free by closely following the mandatory regulations on bringing home deer, elk or moose carcasses. You may legally bring back ONLY deboned meat, antlers, upper canine teeth and/or hides or capes with no part of the head attached. Antlers attached to skull caps or canine teeth must have all soft tissue removed.
While research continues, current information suggests that CWD is most likely transmitted by an abnormal protein present in the nervous system and lymphatic tissue of infected animals. These abnormal proteins are very stable and may persist in the environment for long periods, posing a risk to animals that come into contact with them.
For more information about CWD and New Hampshire’s monitoring efforts, visit the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department website.
Additional information on the disease can be found from the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance at www.cwd-info.org.