AUGUSTA, Maine — With Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in New York and West Virginia, IFW wildlife biologists will once again be collecting samples of the Maine deer population to determine if CWD is present in Maine.
IFW plans to collect 750 samples from hunter-killed deer throughout Maine. The most samples will be taken from towns that have deer farms or winter feeding sites. It is hoped that 450 samples will be collected from the 120 towns that have domestic deer farms or winter feeding sites. Another 300 samples will be collected from the remaining 830 towns in the state. It is believed that in states where CWD is present, it is spread in areas where deer are in close proximity to each other, such as deer farms and feeding sites.
CWD causes irreversible damage to brain tissues in affected animals and ultimately leads to death. CWD is one of a group of diseases known as Transmissable Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs). Other TSEs include Scrapie in sheep, Mad Cow Disease in cattle, and Creuzfeldt Jacob Disease in humans. CWD had been found several western and midwestern states, as well as parts of Canada.
Chronic Wasting Disease is known to occur in mule deer, elk, and white-tailed deer, although other cervids such as red deer, fallow deer, sika deer as well as moose, and caribou may also be susceptible. CWD is thought to be caused by an infectious protein called a prion that upon entering the body; causes the host’s normal proteins to take on a diseased form. These prions accumulate in the brain and spinal cords, as well as lymph nodes, spleen, eye tissues, bone marrow, saliva, feces and urine in diseased deer.
Lymph nodes and the brain stem will be taken from each deer sample, and later tested at a national facility. Results will not be available for several months due the number of deer being tested nationwide.
Last year, animal health officials from the Maine Department of Agriculture, and biologists from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, sampled brain tissues from deer harvested throughout Maine during the 2005 hunting season. All samples collected in 2005 tested negative for CWD.