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Chronic wasting disease found in Montgomery County deer

(Photo source: Pixabay)
(Photo source: Pixabay)(Pixabay)
Updated: May. 12, 2021 at 9:33 PM EDT
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MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) -The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources has confirmed chronic wasting disease for the first time in Montgomery County.

DWR says it was found in a 2.5-year-old male deer legally harvested in southwestern Montgomery County. Agents say the deer was brought to a taxidermist in late November 2020 and DWR obtained the sample in January as part of the Department’s proactive statewide CWD surveillance efforts.

DWR says at the time of harvest, the hunter did not notice any outward signs of disease and the deer appeared to be in good condition. At this point, the agency says there is no evidence of a linkage between this new occurrence and prior occurrences in the state; the deer was harvested more than 160 miles from the closest prior detection in Madison County. Because of the significant distance from the nearest CWD-positive deer, the DWR conducted an extensive forensic investigation to confirm the harvest location of this deer.

In accordance with DWR’s CWD Management Plan, a new disease management area (DMA3) has been created and includes Floyd, Montgomery, and Pulaski counties. Regulatory actions to control the spread of CWD which go into effect immediately include the following:

1. Prohibition on white-tailed deer fawn rehabilitation in DMA3,

2. Restricted transport of whole deer carcasses and any parts containing brain or spinal cord tissue out of DMA3 (please see dwr.virginia.gov/wildlife/diseases/cwd/dma-3 for additional information on deer carcass transport restrictions), and

3. Prohibition on feeding of deer year-round in Bland, Carroll, Craig, Floyd, Franklin, Giles, Montgomery, Patrick, Pulaski, Roanoke, and Wythe counties, and in the cities of Radford, Roanoke, and Salem.

In addition, DWR will be recommending at the May 27 Board of Wildlife Resources meeting that public comment be obtained on the following regulation changes for DMA3:

1. Addition of early and late antlerless-only deer seasons in an approximately 40 square-mile Disease Focus Zone, located in the vicinity of the CWD detection,

2. Extension of the general firearms deer season from two to four weeks in Montgomery and Pulaski counties, matching Floyd’s existing general firearms season, and

3. Removal of antler point restrictions from the Fairystone quality deer management area.

These proposed regulation changes will be advertised for public comment by mid-June. Visit dwr.virginia.gov/about/public-comment-opportunities/ for information on how to submit public comments. If approved by the Board later this summer, these changes will take effect for the 2021-22 deer hunting season.

DWR is planning an extensive CWD testing effort throughout DMA3 and in certain surrounding counties during the 2021-22 deer hunting season to further investigate this detection. Cooperation from area hunters will be critical. Additional information will be provided in the annual hunting and trapping booklet and on the DWR DMA3 website (dwr.virginia.gov/wildlife/diseases/cwd/dma-3) about how hunters can submit their deer for testing during the upcoming deer seasons.

The DWR will hold public meetings in DMA3 prior to the deer hunting seasons. The format of those meetings will be determined by COVID-19 restrictions applicable at that time. Details regarding public meeting dates and formats will be posted at dwr.virginia.gov/wildlife/diseases/cwd/dma-3/ by July 31, 2021.

DWR has been closely monitoring CWD prevalence and spread in northwestern Virginia (DMA1 and DMA2) for more than 10 years. Across the rest of the state, DWR has been conducting CWD surveillance for the past three years with the assistance of cooperating taxidermists. During the 2020-21 deer hunting season, cooperating taxidermists submitted samples from more than 2,600 deer. The only CWD detection to result from this statewide effort was this Montgomery County deer. The Department is very appreciative of the support and cooperation demonstrated by taxidermists and hunters who aided in this sampling effort. As evidenced by this newly diagnosed CWD positive deer, this assistance is critical to the success of our ongoing statewide CWD monitoring, surveillance, and prevention efforts.

CWD has been confirmed in 26 states and three Canadian provinces. In Virginia, a total of 109 deer have tested positive for CWD since 2009. This incurable disease, found in deer, elk, and moose in North America, is a slow-acting and progressive neurologic disease that ultimately results in death of the animal. The disease-causing agent is spread through the urine, feces, and saliva of infected animals. Clinical signs of CWD, which typically do not develop for several months to over a year after exposure, include staggering, abnormal posture, lowered head, drooling, confusion, and marked weight loss. There is no evidence that CWD can be transmitted naturally to humans, pets, or livestock (with the possible exception of pigs). However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends hunters test all deer harvested from known CWD-positive areas, wait until test results are received prior to consuming the meat, and do not consume any meat from animals that test positive for the disease.

Regulations pertaining to CWD, maps of affected states, and information about CWD can be found on the DWR website at dwr.virginia.gov/wildlife/disease/cwd

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