Hunters warned about deer wasting disease
West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) officials recently expanded the state Chronic Wasting Disease Containment Area to include portions of Morgan County and Hardy County.
All areas of Morgan County that lie west of U.S. Route 522— roughly half of the county— are now considered within the disease containment area. So is the portion of Hardy County north of Corridor H and WV Route 55 from Wardensville to the Virginia Stateline as well as all of Hampshire County.
Matches other areas
The decision was made to add portions of Morgan County to the Chronic Wasting Disease containment area to match Maryland’s disease containment area.
A deer killed in Green Ridge State Forest in eastern Allegany County during the 2010 firearms season was found to have the disease, said West Virginia DNR biologist Rich Rogers.
While there had been reports that Chronic Wasting Disease had been found in Morgan County, Rogers and West Virginia DNR communications official Hoy Murphy emphasized that no deer in Morgan County had tested positive for the disease.
A deer had been found with the disease in Hardy County, which prompted the move to expand the containment area to parts of Hardy County.
Deer with Chronic Wasting Disease have been found in Frederick, Allegany, Hampshire and Hardy Counties, Rogers said. There have been no deer found with the disease in Washington County.
Officials from Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and Pennsylvania have had joint meetings to coordinate the response to the rising numbers of cases. The disease seems to be spreading northeast to southwest, he said.
As of June, 2011, 98 deer in Hampshire County and one deer in Hardy County are the only known deer in West Virginia to have been infected. According to information from the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources website, over 12,200 deer from West Virginia have been tested for the disease since 2002.
Chronic Wasting Disease was first found in West Virginia in Hampshire County. It has been detected in 18 other states and two Canadian provinces.
It is illegal to feed or bait deer or other wildlife within the Chronic Wasting Disease containment area. Baiting concentrates the deer and spreads the disease within families, Rogers noted. The only exception allowed is a backyard bird feeder.
Hunters are also prohibited from transporting dead deer or elk or their parts outside the border of the containment area.
Exceptions to the transport ban are meat that has been boned out or quarters or other portions of meat that have no spinal column
or spinal tissue or head attached and also thoroughly cleaned skull plates and antlers that have no meat or tissue attached.
They were unsure of the long-term effects of the disease on the white-tailed deer. It could be very serious and could decimate the deer herd, Rogers said.
Chronic Wasting Disease attacks the brain and nervous system in deer and elk and is caused by an abnormal protein or prion. It is believed to be spread by bodily fluids, he said.
Deer become emaciated and can stagger, drool or salivate excessively and exhibit poor posture, trembling or erratic behavior if ill.
The disease is due to a malformed protein and not a virus or bacteria, Rogers said. Prion science is in its infancy. The science points to the disease having no effect on humans, he said.
The Division of Natural Resources is gathering information about the disease’s prevalence in the areas surrounding known cases and has taken steps to try to slow its spread.
Rogers said that it was just a matter of time before the disease showed itself in Morgan County because of the four states converging in the area and how the herds move through the mountains.
People are also not taking the threat of Chronic Wasting Disease seriously, he said. They still want to bait deer, which concentrates them in places that can spread the disease.
It’s unfortunate, but the disease is going to keep spreading, Rogers said.
Maryland Division of Natural Resources is urging hunters to avoid contact with the spinal, brain or lymph node tissue of deer, to use a 50% Clorox solution to sanitize butchering tools and work areas and to wash hands thoroughly when finished.
Wearing latex or rubber gloves when butchering or field-dressing and not using kitchen or household utensils is recommended.
People are also advised to avoid handling or having contact with any wildlife that appears sick.