Outdoors - CWD could be on rise in W.Va.

January 06, 2008|By BILL ANDERSON

The story of Chronic Wasting Disease in Hampshire County, W.Va. now involves more than one deer killed by hunters during open season.

The West Virginia Department of Natural resources reported that five deer taken by hunters during the recent firearms season have tested positive for CWD. During the season, DNR personnel took samples from 1,285 deer at check-in stations in Hampshire County. Five have come back positive so far.

According to the DNR, CWD has been detected in a total of 19 deer in Hampshire County since 2005. Four of the five positive deer this year were harvested within the DNR's designated CWD containment area north of U.S. 50 in Hampshire County, but the fifth was killed outside the containment area near Yellow Springs.

In the past, the affected deer have been from a relatively small area near Slanesville. A positive test from a deer outside of that immediate area is certainly not a positive event.


CWD is a neurological disease found in deer and elk thought to be caused by abnormal, proteinaceous particles called prions that slowly attack the brain, causing the animals to become emaciated, display abnormal behavior and eventually die.

The management professionals are not certain how the disease is transmitted from animal to animal, but it is thought that high population densities are a major contributor. Herd reduction is usually the first step wildlife managers implement. Concentrating the deer or elk by feeding, for example, is definitely a bad thing.

CWD is found in many states and some, such as Colorado, have been dealing with CWD for more than a decade. There have been no reported incidents of humans being infected with CWD and there is no eveidence to suggest that it poses a threat to domestic animals.

Maryland's deer herd is free of CWD, which is the reason hunters are restricted from bringing deer killed in West Virginia (and other CWD states) to commercial butcher shops and the heads and antlers to Maryland taxidermists.

The DNR has been working hard with land owners in the impacted areas to reduce the populations and test as many animals as possible. The actual number of positives make up a very small percentage of the herd population, but many hunters find this issue alarming and are openly wondering about the risks.

Bill Anderson writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached by e-mail at

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