Test results have detected the Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) agent in four additional deer collected during the first week of the 2008 spring collections in Hampshire County, according to the West Virginia Division of Natural Resoures. The deer were collected by sharp-shooter teams working in the Slanesville/Augusta area of the county. No new positive samples have been detected so far in the Yellow Springs area. The object of the collections is to continue to define prevalence and distribution of the disease as well as monitoring changes in the structure of the deer herd in the containment area near Slanesville, where CWD has been detected the past few years.
Spotlight surveys conducted in the fall of 2006 and 2007 indicate similar deer densities in and outside of the containment area where special collections are occurring. Wildlife biologists conducting the surveys noted the only difference is that the herd inside the containment area, which is north of Route 50, is comprised of younger animals with a higher number of fawns. Special collections do not seem to be affecting total numbers, but do seem to be having an affect on age structure and reproductive rate which is seen as a positive aspect of the program. Younger animals should theoretically be less capable of transmitting the disease.
Field sampling is not yet fully completed for the year; however, the Division of Natural Resources would like to thank all cooperating landowners in Hampshire County for having the foresight, patience, and intelligence to participate in this program. If any Hampshire County containment area landowner would still like to participate by allowing biologists to collect two or three deer on their property, they should contact the District 2 office in Romney at 304-822-3551. There are still many areas where no deer have been collected that are in danger of becoming higher prevalence reservoirs for chronic wasting disease. This is counterproductive to what cooperating landowners are attempting to achieve by participating in the program.
CWD is a neurological disease found in deer and elk, and it belongs to a family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. The disease is thought to be caused by abnormal, proteinaceous particles called prions that slowly attack the brain of infected deer and elk, causing the animals to progressively become emaciated, display abnormal behavior and invariably results in the death of the infected animal. There is no known treatment for CWD, and it is fatal for the infected deer or elk. It is important to note that currently there is no evidence to suggest CWD poses a risk for humans or domestic animals.