RALEIGH, N.C. (August 22)—This fall N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission biologists will monitor aggressively for a deadly deer disease.

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a transmissible neurological disease of deer and elk. CWD produces small lesions in the brains of infected animals. It is characterized by loss of body condition, abnormal behavior and eventual death. To obtain samples for CWD testing, Commission staff will collect 1,000 deer heads this fall from all over the state.

Wildlife enforcement officers and biologists will approach hunters and ask them to relinquish deer heads voluntarily. Hunters can retain skullcaps and antlers. Fresh road kills are also suitable for testing. Trained biologists will remove the brain tissues needed for CWD testing and send the tissue samples to the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study laboratory in Athens, Ga., for diagnosis. The Commission will notify hunters if their animals test positive for CWD.

“We have not found CWD in North Carolina, but so far our testing has been limited to symptomatic animals and animals from target areas,” said Evin Stanford, the Commission’s deer biologist. “We intend for this fall’s sampling to ensure a higher degree of certainty. We will collect deer heads from across the state in a predetermined pattern to guarantee the statistical strength of our sampling.”

Although CWD is contagious among deer and elk, research suggests that humans, cattle and other domestic livestock are resistant to natural transmission. While the possibility of human infection remains a concern, there have been no verified cases of humans contracting CWD.

To date, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Saskatchewan have found CWD in free-ranging animals. CWD has struck captive deer and elk in Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Kansas, Alberta and Saskatchewan.