CONCORD, N.H. – New Hampshire’s white-tailed deer population once again showed no evidence of chronic wasting disease (CWD), based on monitoring data gathered during the 2014 hunting season. New Hampshire Fish and Game Deer Biologist Dan Bergeron recently received results from a federally certified veterinary diagnostic laboratory that indicate that all the deer tissue samples taken during last fall’s hunting season tested negative for CWD. A total of 423 tissue samples were tested.
Chronic wasting disease is a neurological disorder that is fatal to white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose, but the World Health Organization has concluded that there is no evidence that people can become infected with CWD.
CWD is transmitted by an abnormal prion protein present in the nervous system and lymphatic tissue of infected animals. These abnormal proteins are very stable and may persist in the environment for several years, posing a risk to animals that come into contact with them. The abnormal proteins are found in nervous system tissue, lymph nodes, saliva, and urine among other places. Because CWD prions may be present in urine-based lures, Fish and Game strongly encourages the use of one of the many effective synthetic deer lures on the market today. If urine-based lures are used, apply them to scent wicks and place them above deer height and let the air circulate the scent. Do not place them on vegetation or the ground as the infective prion can remain in the environment for years as a possible source of exposure for NH deer.
During the fall 2014 deer hunting season, New Hampshire Fish and Game with significant support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services located in Concord, collected heads and extracted brain-stem samples from hunter-killed deer across the state for testing. As a result of these efforts, 5,199 deer have been tested in New Hampshire since testing began in 2002.
Chronic wasting disease was first identified in 1978 and remained isolated in Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska for about a decade. CWD has been found as far east as New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, bringing the disease far closer to New Hampshire’s borders. To date, CWD has been detected in wild or captive deer or elk in a total of 25 states and provinces. These include Alberta, Canada; Colorado; Iowa; Illinois; Kansas; Maryland; Michigan; Minnesota; Missouri; Montana; Nebraska; New Mexico; New York; North Dakota; Ohio; Oklahoma; Pennsylvania; Saskatchewan, Canada; South Dakota; Texas; Utah; Virginia; West Virginia; Wisconsin; and Wyoming. A nationwide effort is underway to prevent further spread of the disease. This effort includes collecting annual samples of deer tissue as part of ongoing monitoring and surveillance efforts and restricting the transport of potentially infected animals, carcasses or tissues.
People who make hunting trips to CWD-positive jurisdictions listed above can help keep New Hampshire CWD-free by closely following the mandatory regulations on bringing home deer, elk or moose carcasses. You may legally bring back ONLY deboned meat, antlers, upper canine teeth, hides or capes with no part of the head attached, and finished taxidermy mounts. Antlers attached to skull caps or canine teeth must have all soft tissue removed.
In light of New York’s extensive sampling efforts with no additional positive deer found since 2005 and their decision to decommission their CWD Containment Area, New Hampshire Fish & Game biologists felt that there was minimal remaining risk that CWD was still present and now permits importation of whole deer from New York. However, regulations in Massachusetts and Vermont still prohibit the importation of deer carcasses from New York and these regulations include the transport of New York-killed deer carcasses through these states. New Hampshire hunters are warned that simply crossing these states with a deer carcass from New York remains a violation and could result in legal prosecution. As a consequence, New Hampshire Fish and Game recommends that hunters continue the past practice of deboning New York deer.
For more information about CWD and New Hampshire’s monitoring efforts, visit wildlife.state.nh.us/wildlife/cwd.html.