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Herd diseases add curve to hunting

October 22, 2007|By BILL ANDERSON

One of the major problems for large wildlife populations is the potential for disease, especially those transmitted between animals.

In our area, and actually for most of the country, the most alarming is Chronic Wasting Disease.

CWD has been confirmed in the deer herd around Slanesville, W.Va., but so far has been confined to that general area.

CWD is very bad business. It is similar to, but not the same as, Mad Cow Disease. CWD is giving wildlife managers problems in formulating policies and regulations as they try to keep the disease from expanding to areas currently free of the disease.

If you hunt in areas that have CWD, it affects all aspects of the way you handle the butchering of animals and the handling of meat, antlers and capes.

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For example, if you are hunting out-of-state or in a state with confirmed CWD, the chances are that you will not be able to legally deliver the antlers and cape to your favorite taxidermist in Maryland. If in doubt, it would be a good idea to check with your taxidermist before the trip.

A friend recently told me he is having his Colorado elk, taken this fall during the early bow season, mounted by a Colorado taxidermist. His research was that after the mounting process is complete, the head can be legally shipped to him in Maryland. That's something to keep in mind and to check if you are planning an out-of-state hunt.

Another disease appearing in Maryland and surrounding states is Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease. EHD is fairly common in the area's deer herd and, according to a recent DNR news release, the disease is transmitted by bites from tiny fly midges and is not transmitted by contact from deer to deer.

Some 10 years ago, EHD hit the deer herd in Hardy County, W.Va., hard. We had a property in the Lost River area and before the rifle season, we found numerous dead deer on the property and while driving through the area.

During the season, the deer we tagged and the deer we saw at the check-in stations were unusually thin - well below typical body weight. This is apparently quite typical of deer that are recovering from the disease. By the next hunting season, the deer seemed to have recovered and seemed normal in body condition and weight.

According to the Maryland DNR, EHD is not transmitted by direct contact between deer and cannot be spread to humans. Also, humans are not at risk of being bitten by infected midges or from handling or eating the meat of affected deer. The infectious virus may also result in visible sores and secondary infections to the deer. DNR recommends against eating deer which have large, open sores, regardless of the cause.

As was our experience in Hardy County, the Maryland DNR points out that severe emaciation may be seen in animals recovering from EHD. Dead or dying deer found near water in late summer or early fall are a common characteristic of an EHD outbreak. The DNR also says that cold weather typically brings an end to EHD outbreaks since it kills the midges that transmit the virus.

The Maryland DNR is asking citizens who encounter a sick or freshly dead deer that appears to have EHD to contact the Western Maryland office at 301-777-2136.

Bill Anderson writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Mail.

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