Deer population Disease-Free for Six Consecutive Years

ANNAPOLIS — Samples collected from more than 900 deer during the 2007-2008 Maryland deer hunting season showed no signs of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). Recent laboratory test results confirmed no evidence of the disease in brain and lymph nodes collected from 983 deer. Additional samples from sick or injured deer also showed no signs of the disease. During the past six years, over 4600 Maryland deer have been tested and were CWD-free.

Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) biologists collected brain and lymph gland samples during the state’s 2007-08 muzzleloader and firearm deer hunting seasons across every Maryland county.

“This is great news for Maryland hunters, landowners, farmers and anyone who has an appreciation for a healthy, sustainable deer population,” Assistant Deer Project Leader George Timko said. “Critical to the success of this project was the cooperation of our many partners in federal, state and county government, as well as private landowners and farm managers. All of these individuals played an integral role in gathering the data that contributes to our informed response on this issue.”

CWD is a neurological disease that is fatal to cervids. The disease attacks the brain and spinal cord of the animals and is believed to be caused by prions, or rogue proteins. CWD is classified as a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy similar to “Mad Cow Disease” in cattle and Scrapie in sheep. CWD is also similar to Creutzfeld-Jacobs disease in people, though it is not known to be transmissible to humans.

CWD was originally discovered in Colorado in 1967 and was thought to be a disease of western deer and elk. Since then, monitoring by state, federal, and provincial wildlife agencies have detected the disease in 14 states and 2 Canadian provinces. CWD has been confirmed in free-ranging cervids in 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 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.

In 2005, CWD was detected in white-tailed deer in central New York and approximately 10 miles from the Maryland border in West Virginia. Since it’s detection in West Virginia, Maryland DNR biologists and partners increased ongoing surveillance in Allegany County near the West Virginia location. A total of 105 samples were collected in Allegany County in 2007-08. All samples tested negative for CWD.

CWD. Surveillance will continue in all 23 Maryland counties during the 2008-09 deer hunting seasons. Citizens are encouraged to report any deer that appears sick to the local DNR office. These animals, if exhibiting CWD-like symptoms and collected in a timely manner, will be examined by wildlife veterinarians and tested for CWD.