Two deer in a forest the Maryland Department of Natural Resources received laboratory confirmation on January 16, 2015 that four additional white-tailed deer harvested in Maryland tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD), bringing the total number of overall positive cases to six. The deer, all male, were harvested in the CWD Management Area in Allegany County during the regular deer firearm season.

The first confirmed case of CWD in Maryland was reported in February 2011 and the second was found in 2014, both from Allegany County. Maryland is one of more than 20 states and Canadian provinces with CWD documented in deer, elk or moose.

“Chronic Wasting Disease has become firmly established in the region since it was initially found in West Virginia in 2005,” said Paul Peditto, director of DNR’s Wildlife and Heritage Service. “The Department has followed this outbreak closely and has been prepared to find additional infected deer in Maryland. We have sampled intensively for this disease since 2002 and see this as an unfortunate but inevitable outcome. We will continue to manage CWD with the best available science to minimize the impact on our deer population and the people who enjoy these great animals.”

Concerns over CWD should not stop anyone from deer hunting and enjoying venison. There is no evidence that the disease can be transmitted to humans, livestock or other animals. As always, hunters are advised to never consume the meat of sick animals. Hunters are also advised to avoid the brain, spinal column or lymph nodes of deer — all of which are normally removed during the butchering process.

To date, six positive samples have been found out of nearly 8,300 deer tested in Maryland since 1999. Beginning in 2010, sampling efforts have been focused on Allegany and western Washington counties due to the presence of CWD in nearby West Virginia, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

CWD is a fatal disease that attacks the brain and spinal cord of deer and elk, specifically white-tailed deer, moose, mule deer and Rocky Mountain elk. While the exact cause is not known, it is believed to be a prion disease. A prion is an altered protein that causes other normal proteins to change and cause sponge-like holes in the brain. The disease appears to be passed between animals via saliva, feces or urine. More information on CWD in Maryland is available on the DNR website.

Anyone with questions may contact DNR Wildlife and Heritage Service at 410-260-8540. Keep up to date with DNR Wildlife and Heritage Service on Facebook and Twitter @MDDNRWildlife.