February 2, 2017

Midwest: New Cases of Chronic Wasting Disease Across the Region

Multiple states in the Midwestern United States have recently been responding to new cases of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), while other states are working to prevent the reappearance of the disease in their deer herds.

CWD is believed to spread by abnormal cellular proteins called prions, which can be transmitted directly from one animal to another through bodily fluids and tissues. The disease occurs in both farmed and free-ranging deer, elk, and moose. Symptoms include progressive weight loss, stumbling, tremors, lack of coordination, blank facial expressions, excessive salivation and drooling, abnormal head posture, and drooping ears.

On January 25, officials with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department announced that CWD had been detected in a free-ranging white-tailed deer for the first time in the state. The Department issued an executive order creating a CWD containment zone around the area of detection, where no deer are allowed. The order also includes restrictions on handling and processing deer meat in the area.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recently concluded a special 16-day deer hunt on January 15 that was designed to assess the prevalence of CWD after instances of the disease were found in December 2016. An additional case was discovered in the deer from the special hunt, bringing the total to six positive wild white-tailed deer in the region. Until this outbreak, the last case of CWD in Minnesota wild deer was detected in 2010. As a next step, the Department has begun issuing landowners permits to harvest deer on their properties in the affected area in order to decrease the chance of transmission among deer and further assess the spread of the disease in the region.

Finally, on January 1, 2017, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission enacted two regulations designed to prevent the spread of CWD after it was found in wild white-tailed deer and elk in Arkansas for the first time in early 2016. The first regulation prohibits people in select counties from feeding wildlife outside of the fall/winter baiting season. Sites with unnaturally high concentrations of deer, like baiting sites, increase the likelihood of the spread of CWD. The second regulation is a statewide ban on the use of scents and lures using natural deer urine, joining Alaska, Arizona, Virginia, and Vermont as states that have banned their use.

Chronic wasting disease has been detected in wild cervid populations in 21 states, and is of increasing concern to wildlife managers across the Midwest and the country.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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