Why It Matters: New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife (NJDFW) is requesting the public’s help reporting potentially diseased deer within the Garden State. Wildlife managers ask that if you suspect a deer is diseased to report via the new Deer Disease Sighting Form (arcgis.com). This input is extremely valuable to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) Fish and Wildlife’s response to potential outbreaks in New Jersey’s deer herd. The new form allows the reporting public to offer their contact information, date of observation, location by way of New Jersey’s Wildlife Management Area System (WMAS) and allows the observer to upload images and videos if such content has been curated with a simple drag and drop system. New Jersey’s estimated deer herd is roughly 125,000 animals as of 2022. The deer herd has experienced growth since 2019 when the herd was estimated to be 114,000 deer; however, the herd is still down from the 1995 peak of 204,000 deer. Disease reporting and response is crucial to maintaining healthy deer populations in the Garden State, and with this new reporting method, hunters and the non-hunting public alike, can have a direct hand in the health of New Jersey’s deer.
- According to NJDFW, as of 2021, New Jersey has tested 9,842 free-ranging white-tailed deer, 156 captive white-tailed deer, and 17 captive exotic cervids. All samples were negative for the Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) prion.
- CWD has been discovered in New York in 2005 in farmed deer facilities and in nearby wild white-tailed deer.
- Pennsylvania’s first discovery of CWD occurred in 2012. First in a captive deer facility then a few months later in free-ranging populations.
- CWD infected animals, after an incubation period of up to 24 months where the animal can present normally, can start to be identified by weight loss even while eating, walking in the same repetitive path, they may also appear wobbly in the hoof and present a wider stance than normal, and infected animals may also exhibit a slight head tremor.
- Effective May 10, 2021, hunters have been banned from bringing a whole carcass or non-taxidermized head from any member of the Cervidae family (including but not limited to white-tailed deer, black-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, red deer, moose, sika deer, caribou and reindeer) into New Jersey from any other state or country.
New for 2023, Garden State hunters and non-hunters are encouraged to report potentially sick or diseased deer within the state via the new Deer Disease Sighting Form. As New Jersey’s herd continues to rebound from peak herd numbers of over 200,000 animals in 1995, reporting and response is vitally important to the health and wellbeing of New Jersey’s deer herd. While CWD has not been detected in the Garden State, hunters should know rules pertaining to bringing in harvested cervids from out of state as well as New Jersey’s Deer Derived Lure Ban. Lures and scents made from deer are banned for sale, possession and use while hunting in New Jersey. Only synthetic or non-deer-derived scents or lures for deer hunting are allowed in New Jersey. Butchers and taxidermists should use designated food waste dumpsters for disposal of animal waste materials. Proper disposal will eliminate exposure to contaminated waste, including salty remnants created in taxidermy processes that may attract live deer.
CWD has not been known to be transmissible to humans. In fact, animals from known CWD regions in the western US have been utilized for food for decades without transmission to humans. The CDC, however, does not recommend consuming meat from any sick deer, elk, or other cervid testing positive for CWD. Traveling hunters should know all rules and requirements for importation of harvests into any state as well as the use of certain types of organically based attractants or lures, to prevent the spread of disease and CWD.
For more information on CWD in the Garden State visit, NJDEP | New Jersey Fish and Wildlife | Home.