Northeastern US seeks to prevent arrival of deer disease

October 7, 2018 by Wilson Ring
In this March 28, 2007, file photo a deer looks up from grazing under a tree, in Sharon, Vt. Deer biologists across northern New England are dusting off their plans for dealing with a fatal disease that has been spreading across North America for a half-century and was recently discovered again on a Canadian game farm. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

Deer biologists across northern New England are dusting off their plans for dealing with a fatal disease that has been spreading across North America for a half-century and was recently discovered again on a Canadian game farm.

Chronic wasting disease has never been found in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, and biologists hope the single case discovered in a captive deer just north of Montreal can be contained through aggressive monitoring and culling of wild deer in the area while they test to see whether the disease has infected the wild population.

"If they find it in the wild, then the freak-out factor goes through the roof because at that point, it's only a matter of time before it spreads," said Nick Fortin, deer for the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The discovery comes as the embark on annual fall deer hunts.

Chronic wasting disease, which always kills infected deer and related animals, is similar to , which affects cattle. Both diseases can contaminate forage plants and build up in soil, where they can remain for years.

It is not known to affect humans, but officials worry it could, over time, damage or destroy deer herds.

Vermont and many other states have prohibited hunters from bringing into the state deer, elk or parts of deer from areas that have reported chronic wasting disease or from captive hunt or farm facilities. Hunters can return with some processed parts of the animals. Vermont and a number of states have also banned the sale of deer urine, which is used a lure.

Northeastern US seeks to prevent arrival of deer disease
In this March 4, 2010, file photo a small herd of deer feed on the grounds of Spruce Cone Cabins and Campground, in Pittsburg, N.H. Deer biologists across northern New England are dusting off their plans for dealing with a fatal disease that has been spreading across North America for a half-century and was recently discovered again on a Canadian game farm. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)

Since it was first recognized in captive mule deer in Colorado about 50 years ago, has slowly spread to more than two dozen states and a number of Canadian provinces. States have spent millions trying to halt that from happening.

Some feel that's too much money to spend when little is known about the disease. Shawn Schafer, executive director of the North American Deer Farmer Association, said the organization supports many of the restrictions on the movement of deer carcasses, but he feels not enough science has been done to determine the scope of the disease.

While biologists fear that once it the reaches an area it could be there to stay, but a 2005 outbreak in central New York was contained quickly and it hasn't been detected in the state since.

Patrick Martin, a wildlife biologist for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation who is in charge of the wildlife health unit, said a routine test discovered the 2005 case in a deer from a captive deer farm. A second infected animal was then found on another farm.

Wildlife officials subsequently killed about 500 deer in the area and found two more deer infected wild . But the aggressive approach, which cost about $1 million, appears to have worked. Since then New York has tested extensively and there have been no additional cases.

"It was a perfect storm for why it got there. It was kind of dumb luck that we able to take all the animals that were exposed," Martin said. "The advantage was we found it early."

Explore further: No more screwworm medications for Key deer as threat wanes

Related Stories

Maine weather wreaking havoc on deer

March 30, 2008

Deer living in Maine and other portions of New England are likely battling starvation because of the region's tough winter, biologists say.

Deer may have mad-cow-like disease

January 20, 2006

Health officials in Kansas are investigating a potential case of chronic wasting disease, a brain degeneration in deer and elk similar to mad cow disease.

Recommended for you

How plants bind their green pigment chlorophyll

October 19, 2018

Chlorophyll is the pigment used by all plants for photosynthesis. There are two versions, chlorophyll a and chlorophyll b. These are structurally very similar to one another but have different colors, blue-green and yellowish ...

3 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

grandpa
2 / 5 (1) Oct 07, 2018
There are only two ways to prevent this. Stop feeding deer and get rid of game farms. Deer need to have starvation times to clear prions from their bodies. Game farms have deer feeding in the same areas which spreads the prions. Feeding deer is killing them with kindness.
Doug_Nightmare
2 / 5 (1) Oct 08, 2018
Limousine liberal progressive governments and their agents will be as effective stopping CWD as Tick Borne Diseases.

Prions are not 'cleared', not even by sterilization.
barakn
not rated yet Oct 09, 2018
Doug is deranged, as CWD exists mostly in conservative states whose governments initially twiddled their thumbs and pretended the disease didn't exist because they wanted to protect the game farm industry. He is right that prions are not cleared. And they are extremely persistent in the environment as well. At least one former game farm had to set up an on-site incinerator to dispose of the carcasses and then soak the soil and fences with chlorine.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.