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Unlike West Virginia, Maryland free of CWD


July 06, 2008|By BILL ANDERSON

We have covered the on-going Chronic Wasting Disease situation in West Virginia for several years now. The latest update from the West Virginia DNR is that a total of 11 deer taken during the spring collection period tested positive for CWD.

With CWD being found in neighboring states, Maryland wildlife managers have been actively testing deer to confirm that the Maryland herd was still free of CWD. Maryland officials are reporting that 983 deer taken during the 2007-2008 hunting seasons were tested and shown to be negative. Over the past six years, more than 4,600 deer from Maryland have been tested and all tests have been negative for CWD.

In response to the confirmed CWD cases in Hampshire County, West Virginia, Maryland biologists collected 105 samples in nearby Allegany County during the 2007-2008 seasons. All samples tested negative.

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 progressively become emaciated and display erratic or abnormal behavior, eventually resulting in the death of the infected animal.


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. An abnormal concentration of deer or elk by feeding stations is definitely a bad thing.

CWD was first reported in Colorado in 1967 and was originally considered to be a disease of western deer and elk. Since then, wildlife agencies have detected the disease in 14 states and two Canadian provinces.

CWD has been confirmed in free-ranging deer and elk in Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Utah, Illinois, New York, Kansas and West Virginia. It has also been found in captive herds in Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Minnesota and New York. CWD is also confirmed in free-ranging and captive deer and elk in the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Prior to this spring's samplings in West Virginia, CWD had been confirmed in a total of 19 deer over a three-year period in Hampshire County. This spring the samplings produced 11 more positives, which does not appear to be a positive trend.

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

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

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