Why It Matters: Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is an always fatal neurologic disease caused by an environmentally resilient, infectious protein called a prion that infects both farmed and free-ranging cervids. CWD was first discovered in Colorado during the late 1960s and was subsequently detected in wild deer in 1981. While CWD was first detected in western cervid populations, it is rapidly moving eastward and currently has been detected in 31 states and has the potential to significantly impact the time-honored tradition of deer hunting in North Carolina.
- The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) recorded its first confirmed case of CWD in March 2022 in Yadkin County and h more cases in Cumberland and Wilkes Counties in April 2023.
- This month, the NCWRC confirmed the first positive case of CWD in Johnston County.
- The NCWRC recently proposed rules to replace 2 temporary rules with permanent rules to establish a more permanent response plan to protect the state’s deer herd.
Prior to the first confirmed CWD case in Johnston County, the occurrence of CWD was primarily in the Northwestern and Southeastern portions of the state. Last week’s confirmed case in Johnston County makes it the first confirmed CWD case in the central region of North Carolina. The confirmed positive sample was from a 3 ½ year old female white-tailed deer that was harvested by a hunter during the ongoing archery season.
As part of the NCWRC’s CWD response plan, Johnston County will now become a Primary Surveillance Area. Since hunting season is still open for white-tailed deer in Johnston County, the rules will not change due to the difficulty of ensuring that hunters are aware of the changes. However, the NCWRC encourages hunters in Johnston County and surrounding counties to follow the state’s carcass disposal guidelines and recommends hunters submit their harvest for CWD testing.
In response to the detection of CWD in North Carolina in 2022 and earlier in 2023, the North Carolina Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus has been working to protect the rich deer hunting heritage of North Carolina. At the end of June, House Bill 192, sponsored by North Carolina Legislative Sportsmen’s’ Caucus Co-Chair Representative Jay Adams, and supported by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, was signed into law providing the NCWRC with enhanced tools to protect the state’s deer herd against the further spread of Chronic Wasting Disease.
Although a new confirmed positive case of CWD is never welcomed, a case confirmed from a hunter-harvested sample highlights the importance of the role that hunters play in the fight against CWD in North Carolina and across the country.