ANNAPOLIS – Testing of 969 deer taken during the 2006 Maryland deer hunting season and an additional 13 samples from sick appearing deer finds no sign of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). Almost 3700 Maryland free ranging deer have been tested for CWD since 2002.

Since CWD was identified within Hampshire County West Virginia in September 2005, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) enhanced ongoing surveillance in adjacent Allegany County, Maryland. All 120 Allegany CWD samples collected in 2006 did not indicate infection.

DNR biologists collected the brain and lymph gland samples during Maryland’s 2006-07 muzzleloader and firearms deer hunting seasons across all Maryland counties. Veterinarians of the Maryland Department of Agriculture and veterinarians and biologists of the United States Department of Agriculture assisted DNR with the collection of the CWD samples. Other volunteers included wildlife biologists from the United States Fish & Wildlife Service, Montgomery County Department of Parks and Planning, Howard County Department of Recreation & Parks and Chesapeake Farms.

The Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study (SCWDS) lab located at the University of Georgia conducted the testing of these brain and lymph gland samples. The SCWDS, an internationally known wildlife disease research lab, processes the samples for Maryland and many southeastern states.

CWD is fatal to deer, elk and moose. The disease attacks the brain and spinal cord of the animals and is believed to be caused by prions, which are modified proteins. CWD is classified as a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy similar to “Mad Cow Disease” in cattle and Scrapie in sheep.

CWD has been confirmed in free-ranging cervids within the following states: Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Utah, Illinois, New York, Kansas and West Virginia. It has also been found in captive cervids in the following states: Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Minnesota and New York. CWD is also confirmed in free ranging and captive cervids in the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta.

An additional 850 samples of hunter-harvested deer will be collected from all 23 Maryland counties during the 2007-2008 deer hunting seasons. Any sick deer reported to DNR that exhibit CWD type clinical symptoms will be examined by wildlife veterinarians and tested for CWD.

Additional CWD information is available on the DNR website or on the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance web site.