by Kate Evans
Five deer that were hunter-harvested in Morgan County during the first two days of the 2019-2020 buck firearms season tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).
A deer harvested during the 2018-2019 hunting season also tested positive for the disease – the first one confirmed in the county.
West Virginia Division of Natural Resources wildlife biologist Jim Crum said that the five CWD deer were harvested in the southern portion of Morgan County.
He said it was not unexpected due to the presence of disease in surrounding states and counties and within West Virginia. Crum was pleased that the number of Morgan County positives were so few.
Last year’s deer that had Chronic Wasting Disease was found along the Berkeley County line right along the Sleepy Creek Wildlife Management Area.
Chronic Wasting Disease is a fatal neurological disease of deer, elk, and moose. Chronic Wasting Disease is caused by abnormal infectious proteins called prions. Prions can pass between deer through saliva, feces, urine, and through water or soil contaminated with prions.
The Division of Natural Resources (DNR) ran mandatory check stations in Morgan County, Berkeley County and Mineral County for the first two days of buck season where hunters had to bring their deer, Crum said.
There were three check stations in Morgan County plus one at Cacapon State Park and a total of 13 check stations in the three counties on November 25 and November 26. There were also some walk-ins in Hampshire County at the District Office in Romney where officials did sampling, he said.
DNR specialists collected 170 deer samples in Morgan County and the
Chronic Wasting Disease agent was detected in five deer, Crum said. Every one of the five deer did not appear sick, which he said was typical when DNR officials do Chronic Wasting Disease monitoring.
Hunters who submitted deer samples were given a receipt and had the chance to check with the DNR to see if their deer tested positive for CWD.
Regional count near 400
Crum said the total Eastern Panhandle count for Chronic Wasting Disease for the 2019-2020 hunting season is 22 hunter-harvested deer
out of 716 samples. That includes five deer in Morgan County, six deer in Berkeley County, eight deer in Hampshire County and three deer in Mineral County. There were also three additional clinical deer that were shot and looked sick.
Added to figures from June 2019, the total number of confirmed CWD cases in deer in the Eastern Panhandle is 398 — 358 deer in Hampshire County, six deer in Hardy County, 21 deer in Berkeley County, seven deer in Mineral County and six deer in Morgan County.
Crum noted that CWD is a covert disease where the mortality is distributed over time.
“It doesn’t present as a mass die-off. Over the years it reduces the herd,” he said.
Containment area, feeding ban
The West Virginia Chronic Wasting Disease containment area and current regulations regarding baiting and feeding of deer and deer transport are still the same, Crum said. The Chronic Wasting Disease containment area includes all of Morgan, Berkeley, Jefferson, Hampshire, Mineral, Grant and Hardy Counties.
Morgan, Berkeley, Hampshire, Mineral and Hardy Counties have restrictions about the disposal and transport of deer carcasses and also feeding and baiting deer restrictions. Grant and Jefferson Counties only have the feeding and baiting restrictions. The restrictions are designed to combat the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease.
Dead deer or their parts may not be transported beyond the boundary
of Berkeley, Hampshire, Hardy, Mineral and Morgan Counties except for the following: meat that has been boned out, quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached, cleaned hide with no head attached, clean skull plate (no meat or tissue attached) with antlers attached, antlers with no meat or tissue attached and finished taxidermy mounts.
Chronic Wasting Disease has been found in wild free-ranging deer or
captive deer and/or elk populations in 26 states and three Canadian provinces.
Chronic Wasting Disease was first diagnosed in West Virginia in 2005, Virginia in 2009, Maryland in 2010, and Pennsylvania in 2012.
Crum said that Chronic Wasting Disease has grown here since it was first detected in 2005.
The Division of Natural Resources requests residents to contact the
Romney office at 304-822-3551 if they kill or see a very sick or emaciated deer.
Residents should not use natural deer urine-based lures in the environment and avoid placing them on the ground or on vegetation that deer can reach.
The biggest thing that people can do to reduce the spread of CWD is to stop baiting and feeding deer, Crum said. People have misplaced sympathy for the animals and think they’ll starve. They don’t realize that feeding them promotes disease transmission and introduces foreign materials into a free-ranging animal.
Crum also noted that other states have placed a moratorium on the transfer of captive live cervids into the state or within the state to prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease.
Crum said the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization advise hunters not to consume any known infected animals or ones that appear sick.