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Chronic Wasting story goes on in W.Va.

OUTDOORS -

May 18, 2008|By BILL ANDERSON

The West Virginia DNR reported that a total of 11 deer taken during the spring collection period have tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease, a number which seems high in comparison to the number of prior reported cases.

All of the positive deer came from the Slanesville/Augusta area of Hampshire County. There were no positive tests from the Yellow Springs area, which had a positive CWD deer during the 2007 firearms season. This was the first case outside of the CWD containment area, the portion of Hampshire County located north of U.S. 50.

Prior to this spring, CWD had been confirmed in a total of 19 deer in Hampshire County in three years. Four of the five positive deer from last fall's hunting season were taken within the containment area. But a fifth positive deer was killed outside that area.

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

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The wildlife 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. Serious herd reduction is usually the first step wildlife managers in all states implement. Concentrating the deer or elk by feeding for example is definitely a bad thing.

Wildlife professionals say there is still no evidence to suggest CWD poses a risk for humans or domestic animals. CWD is now found in deer and elk in many states. Some states, like Colorado, have been dealing with CWD for more than a decade, and there have been no reported incidents of humans being infected with CWD.

Maryland's deer herd is currently considered free of CWD. For this reason, hunters are restricted from bringing deer killed in West Virginia and other CWD states to commercial butcher shops and taxidermists in Maryland.

The West Virginia DNR continues to work with Hampshire County landowners to reduce the deer populations and test as many animals as possible. The actual number of positives compared to numbers tested may actually be a small percentage, but many hunters find this CWD issue very troubling and still wonder about the potential risks to humans.

Look for the deer harvest numbers in Hampshire County to plummet this fall as hunters choose to hunt in areas free of CWD.

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

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