Morgan County deer tests positive for Chronic Wasting Disease

by Kate Evans

A deer that was harvested in Morgan County during last year’s hunting season has tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease.

Assistant Chief of Game Management Gary Foster from the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) said that the deer was found along the Berkeley County line right along the Sleepy Creek Wildlife Management Area. Foster said 34 Morgan County deer were turned in to other counties.

The total Eastern Panhandle count for Chronic Wasting Disease for the fall hunting season is 350 deer in Hampshire County, six deer in Hardy County, 15 deer in Berkeley County, four deer in Mineral County and one deer in Morgan County. The Berkeley County deer with Chronic Wasting Disease were found mostly in the center of Berkeley County.

Foster said the Division of Natural Resources had mandatory check stations in Berkeley County and Mineral County where hunters had to bring their deer the first two days of firearm season. They collected 247 deer in Berkeley County and 374 deer in Mineral County. The agency targeted both counties last year as part of the Chronic Wasting Disease testing. There were also other counties targeted on the first two days of deer firearm season.

Previously Chronic Wasting Disease had been reportedly detected in 340 deer in Hampshire, six deer in Hardy, two deer in Berkeley County and one deer in Mineral County since 2005, according to a DNR press release that was issued last June.

Foster said they’re in the process of evaluating the Chronic Wasting Disease data. He didn’t anticipate any changes in the Chronic Wasting Disease containment area or in the current regulations regarding baiting and feeding of deer or deer transport. He advised hunters to check and review the 2019-2020 hunting regulations before hunting season to ensure the regulations have remained the same.

Foster also noted that if hunters harvest a deer that appears sick that they should contact the DNR for further instructions.

Transport, baiting & feeding

As of July 1, 2018, Berkeley County and Mineral County were both added to the three counties of Hampshire, Hardy and Morgan Counties that already have restrictions about the disposal and transport of deer carcasses, according to the press release. The restrictions are designed to combat the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease and also apply in Berkeley and Mineral Counties.

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.

Berkeley, Grant, Hampshire, Hardy, Jefferson, Mineral and Morgan Counties have been under a ban on baiting and feeding deer since 2015.

Chronic Wasting Disease

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.

Chronic Wasting Disease has been found in wild free-ranging deer or captive deer and/or elk populations in 24 states.

Foster said that elk that have been brought in to southern West Virginia are routinely checked for Chronic Wasting Disease and have all tested negative.

Foster said Chronic Wasting Disease is a big challenge for West Virginia since the disease is also in the bordering states of Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Other states

Chronic Wasting Disease was first diagnosed in West Virginia in 2005, Virginia in 2009, Maryland in 2010, and Pennsylvania in 2012.

As of February 2019, Virginia has diagnosed 66 Chronic Wasting Disease positive deer in their Chronic Wasting Disease Containment Area, according to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Fall 2018 sampling efforts identified 28 new Chronic Wasting Disease positive deer, with two deer in Shenandoah County and 26 in Frederick County.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources reported 27 infected deer with Chronic Wasting Disease in Maryland. Twenty samples came from Allegany County, including one on Billmeyer Wildlife Management Area and Green Ridge State Forest.   Three have been detected near Cumberland and four in Washington County.

According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, Chronic Wasting Disease has been detected in Pennsylvania on a captive deer farm in Adams County; in multiple free-ranging deer in Bedford, Blair, Cambria and Fulton Counties, captive deer farms in Bedford, Franklin and Fulton Counties; two captive deer farms in Jefferson County, a free-ranging deer in Clearfield County and a captive deer at a Lancaster County facility. Pennsylvania has seen 168 cases of the disease in free-ranging deer since 2012 as of November, 2018.