Feeding wild deer could further spread of CWD

SPRINGFIELD- The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) is reminding Illinois residents and visitors to refrain from feeding wild deer and other wildlife in areas where wild deer are present. A ban on feeding wild deer was enacted in 2002 as part of the state’s continuing effort to limit the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in the Illinois wild deer herd.

The ban includes food, salt, mineral blocks and other food products, with some exceptions. For example, bird and squirrel feeders close to homes and incidental feeding of wildlife within active livestock operations are exempt from the ban. The ban also does not prevent individuals from planting food plots. For a complete list of the exemptions see the administrative rule 17 Illinois Administrative Code Part 635 on the IDNR web site.

“A person’s instinct may tell them that feeding a wild animal, especially during the winter months, will help that animal survive when in actuality they may be hurting that animal’s ability to find food on their own,” said IDNR Acting Director Sam Flood. “Areas where deer congregate have the potential to contribute to the spread of diseases that are transmitted by animal to animal contact, including CWD and bovine tuberculosis. Eliminating the feeding of wild deer will help control the spread of CWD and other diseases among these animals.”

Feed stores, pet stores and other retail outlets are also advised not to promote the sale of salt blocks, grain or other feed for wild deer.

Chronic wasting disease is a fatal neurological disease found in deer and elk. The disease affects the brains of infected animals, causing them to become emaciated, display abnormal behavior, lose coordination and eventually die.

It is not known to be contagious to livestock or humans.

CWD has been diagnosed in wild, free-ranging deer and elk as well as in captive animals in a number of western states for many years. The first confirmed cases of CWD in wild deer in Illinois were detected in Boone and Winnebago counties in 2002. To date, a total of 240 deer have tested positive for CWD in Illinois. The affected animals were found or harvested by hunters in Boone, Winnebago, McHenry, DeKalb, Ogle, LaSalle and Stephenson counties.

IDNR continues to collect tissue samples from wild deer for CWD testing. As part of the surveillance and monitoring effort, hunters in northern Illinois are asked to voluntarily provide tissues samples from deer they are harvesting during the Special CWD and Late-Winter Anterless-Only deer seasons in January.