The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) announced today that three more free-ranging white-tailed deer in Hampshire County, West Virginia, tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). This brings the total number of CWD-positive deer found in Hampshire County to 13. These most recent samples were collected from a total of 101 adult deer taken in March and April by DNR personnel as part of an ongoing and intensive CWD surveillance effort. The three CWD-positive deer were collected within the CWD Containment Area located north of U.S. Route 50 in Hampshire County. The CWD laboratory testing was conducted by the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, which is located at the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine in Athens, Georgia.
When CWD was first confirmed in Hampshire County in September 2005, the DNR immediately implemented its CWD – Incident Response Plan. As part of that plan, the DNR has been engaged in intensive CWD surveillance efforts designed to determine the distribution and prevalence of the disease. These surveillance efforts have included carefully planned and coordinated deer collections within Hampshire County by CWD deer collection teams comprised of Wildlife Biologists, Wildlife Managers and Conservation Officers within the DNR. “These deer collection teams have continued their efforts to gather appropriate samples within the surveillance area to accurately determine the prevalence and distribution of CWD,” said DNR Director Frank Jezioro.
“Our initial CWD surveillance data suggests the disease is located within a relatively small geographic area located near Slanesville, West Virginia,” noted Jezioro. This is encouraging news from a wildlife disease management perspective. “Based upon these findings, we have implemented appropriate management actions designed to control the spread of this disease, prevent further introduction of the disease and possibly eliminate the disease from the state,” Jezioro added.
The following disease management strategies have been implemented by the DNR within the affected area of Hampshire County.
- Continue CWD surveillance efforts designed to determine the prevalence and distribution of the disease;
- Lower deer population levels to reduce the risk of spreading the disease from deer to deer by implementing appropriate antlerless deer hunting regulations designed to increase hunter opportunity to harvest female deer;
- Establish reasonable, responsible and appropriate deer carcass transport restrictions designed to lower the risk of moving the disease to other locations;
- Establish reasonable, responsible and appropriate regulations relating to the feeding and baiting of deer within the affected area to reduce the risk of spreading the disease from deer to deer.
“Landowner cooperation throughout this entire surveillance effort in Hampshire County continues to be fantastic,” Jezioro said. “As we strive to meet this wildlife disease challenge and implement appropriate management strategies, the support and involvement of landowners, hunters and other interested members of the public will continue to be essential.”
CWD is a neurological disease found in deer and elk, and it belongs to a family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. The disease is thought to be caused by abnormal, proteinaceous particles called prions that slowly attack the brain of infected deer and elk, causing the animals to progressively become emaciated, display abnormal behavior and invariably results in the death of the infected animal. There is no known treatment for CWD, and it is fatal for the infected deer or elk. It is important to note that currently there is no evidence to suggest CWD poses a risk for humans or domestic animals.
CWD was first recognized in 1967 in Colorado, and it subsequently has been found in captive herds in ten states and two Canadian provinces and in free-ranging deer or elk in eleven states and two provinces. The source of infection for wild and captive deer and elk in new geographical areas is unknown in many instances. While it is not known exactly how CWD is transmitted, lateral spread from animal to animal through shedding of the infectious agent from the digestive tract appears to be important, and indirect transmission through environmental contamination with infective material is likely.
“Our well-trained and professional staff of Wildlife Biologists, Wildlife Managers and Conservation Officers is working diligently to fully implement the DNR’s CWD – Incident Response Plan which is designed to effectively address this wildlife disease threat,” Jezioro said. “We have some of the best wildlife biologists and veterinarians in the world, including those stationed at the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study in Athens, Georgia, working collaboratively on this situation.”
More information on CWD can be found at the DNR’s website: www.wvdnr.gov and the CWD Alliance website: www.cwd-info.org.