Tuesday, June 27, 2006

West Virginia CWD

It's said that every cloud, black as it might be, has a silver lining. Hopefully, this applies to something as ominous as the report of four new cases of fatal chronic wasting disease CWD among whitetail deer in Hampshire County, W.Va., just across the Potomac from Maryland's popular Green Ridge State Forest. This brings the total to nine in that county.

That state's Division of Natural Resources, which acknowledges preliminary testing on the latest four deer indicated CWD was to blame, said the testing was done as part of an "ongoing intensive surveillance effort." CWD testing was conducted by the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study located at the University of Georgia's College of Veterinary Medicine.

How can there be a silver lining to such news? All nine afflicted deer were from the same small area near the small town of Slanesville, a popular hunting grounds for both residents and non-residents. This could well mean the outbreak remains contained in the area.

How did it reach Hampshire County? It could well have arrived in a pickup truck carrying a diseased whitetail taken by hunter or poacher from another area. Or, could it be a spontaneous outbreak that could have happened in some states hundreds of miles from where CWD was known to be present? So much remains unknown about the disease.

CWD, first recognized in 1967 in Colorado, has subsequently been found in captive deer and elk herds in nine states and two provinces of Canada - and in free-ranging herds in 11 states and two provinces. Until discovered in New York and West Virginia last year (September in West Virginia), CWD cases were pretty much confined to the West and Midwest.

When West Virginia deer first tested positive in late summer of last year, the DNR immediately implemented its CWD-Incident Response Plan - and has been engaged in intensive surveillance efforts designed to determine the spread and prevalence of the disease.

From September through the past April, 1,317 Hampshire County deer were tested. The samples consisted of 1,016 hunter-harvested deer bagged during the past season, 216 deer taken by DNR personnel in '05 and an additional 85 taken by the department in '06. CWD was not detected in any of the examined hunter-harvested deer the past fall.

All four of the latest cases came from the 85 taken by DNR this year. One of the deer that tested positive late last year was a road kill.
"Analysis of the CWD surveillance data indicates the disease appears to be found in a relatively small geographical area located near Slanesville less than 10 miles from the Maryland line." said DNR Director Frank Jezioro. "From a wildlife disease management perspective, we consider this to be encouraging news.

"Based upon these CWD surveillance findings, we are taking the steps necessary to implement appropriate management actions designed to control the spread of the disease, prevent introduction of the disease and possibly eliminate the disease from the state."

Jezioro declined to list what the actions would be, but we will probable see more DNR-taken deer there in the near future. Three management options outlined by the department for use within the afflicted area of Hampshire County include:

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.

Source: Water and Woods News

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