Testing of more than 2,500 samples of deer statewide found no deer infected with Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced today. CWD continues to pose a threat to New York’s wild white-tailed deer as Pennsylvania discovered CWD in both captive white-tailed deer and wild, free-ranging white-tailed deer in 2012. Since 2002, DEC annually has tested hunter-harvested white-tailed deer for CWD. The last confirmed case of CWD in New York was in 2005.
“Under Governor Cuomo’s NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative, New York State hunting relies on a healthy deer population and CWD could devastate the state’s wild deer herd,” said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. “DEC thanks cooperating hunters, meat processors and taxidermists that contributed samples for testing. Successful CWD surveillance depends on all of us. By testing both sick and healthy-appearing deer, DEC looks to identify the earliest intrusion of CWD into New York.”
Public reporting of sick and abnormal deer throughout the year is also important because these animals are collected and tested for CWD. DEC’s Wildlife Health Unit conducts full necropsies (animal autopsy) to determine the source of illness or cause of death on many species, including deer.
In 2012, DEC revised the state CWD surveillance program to include information on population density, deer age and sex, and risk factors, including border counties with Pennsylvania. The goal was to collect samples from the highest risk areas. For further details on the initiation and timeline of DEC’s CWD surveillance program, visit DEC’s website.
Hunters going to Pennsylvania and other CWD-positive states are not permitted to bring back whole carcasses. Prions, the protein that causes CWD, concentrates in tissues like the brain and spinal cord and remain infectious to other deer. It is permitted to bring meat and cleaned skull caps and capes back from a successful hunt. The purpose of this is to prevent the importation of CWD-infected material.
CWD is a fatal disease of deer, elk and moose that is now found in 22 states. It is in the family of diseases known as “transmissible spongiform encephalopathies” or TSEs, which includes “Mad Cow” disease. No human cases of CWD have ever been reported, according to the Federal Centers for Disease Control.
DEC continues to conduct its educational campaign to inform hunters and the public about CWD. Prevention is the only proven management strategy for wildlife diseases. Therefore, hunters are encouraged to protect New York’s deer herd by knowing and following the regulations for hunting outside of New York. Deboning meat will remove the highly infectious parts. In addition to carcasses, urine can also contain prions that can infect deer. Avoid using deer urine or choose synthetic alternatives. Prions can bind to soil and remain infectious to wild deer for years.
Governor Cuomo’s NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative is an effort to improve recreational activities for sportsmen and sportswomen and to boost tourism opportunities throughout the state. This initiative includes the streamlining of fishing and hunting licensing and reducing license fees, improved access for fishing at various sites across the state and increasing hunting opportunities in various regions. This year, Governor Cuomo unveiled the NYS Adventure License, which allows outdoor enthusiasts, boaters, anglers and hunters to consolidate their recreation licenses and benefits onto their New York State Driver’s License, and the NYS Adventure License Plates, featuring nine plate designs available for free to those buying new lifetime hunting, fishing or park licenses in 2014.
In support of this initiative, this year Governor Cuomo has proposed creating 50 new land access projects to connect hunters, anglers, bird watchers and others who enjoy the outdoors to more than 380,000 acres of existing state and easement lands that have gone untapped until now. These 50 new access projects include building new boat launches, installing new hunting blinds and building new trails and parking areas. In addition, the Governor’s 2014-15 budget proposes to: include $4 million to repair the state’s fish hatcheries; limit the liability of landowners who allow recreational activities on their properties, which could open up vast, untapped resources for additional hunting, fishing and many other recreational pursuits; and allow crossbow hunting once again in New York State.
It is also illegal to feed deer. Concentrating deer at a feed or bait pile concentrates animals and helps spread disease. Report sick deer or deer behaving abnormally to your nearest DEC office. For a listing of regional DEC offices, visit DEC’s website.