TRENTON- Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell today announced that DEP found no evidence of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in white-tailed deer tested for CWD during the 2003 – 2004 hunting season.
In addition, tests conducted on 1,500 deer between 1998 and 2004 failed to detect the disease.
“Ongoing testing for CWD consistently shows no evidence of disease in New Jersey’s deer,” said Campbell. “Although it is critical that we continue to closely monitor the health of the deer population, I am encouraged that New Jersey’s deer herd now appears free of chronic wasting disease.”
In April 2003, a private deer herder with preserves in South Hardyston and Sparta in Sussex County illegally imported wild deer from Wisconsin, where CWD had been diagnosed in captive and free ranging deer. In response, DEP ordered the quarantine of all deer, elk and sheep on the two hunting preserves.
DEP coordinated the testing of the imported deer as well as fifty-one hunter-killed deer in the surrounding communities of White Township in Warren County and Franklin and Hardyston townships in Sussex County. DEP also oversaw the testing of deer from Atlantic, Morris and Ocean Counties that displayed CWD symptoms as well as three elk from a captive herd of 130 animals in Kingwood Township, Hunterdon County that had sustained losses. All of the deer tested negative for CWD.
Scientists within the DEP Office of Wildlife Health and Forensics selected the check stations, trained staff to collect samples, dissected and preserved the samples and sent them to a laboratory for examination. In addition, DEP notified hunters who allowed samples to be taken from their deer and requested notification of the test results.
Scientists believe that CWD is caused by an abnormally shaped, infectious protein called a prion. CWD causes fatal damage to the brain and central nervous system of mule deer, rocky mountain elk and white-tailed deer. Symptoms include loss of body condition and altered behavior. However, the disease can only be effectively diagnosed through examination of a portion of the brain. Extensive studies demonstrate no association between human neurological disease and CWD.