KEEPING A CLOSE WATCH

LDWF Biologists Remain Vigilant In Monitoring For Chronic Wasting Disease

story by TRey Iles, LDWF Public Information

The most encouraging news about chronic wasting disease is that it still hasn’t been detected in Louisiana. Unfortunately, the Bayou State is surrounded.

With the discovery of the always fatal disease in Mississippi last winter, near the Louisiana border in the northeast part of the state, all of Louisiana’s neighboring states, including Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi, have now reported occurrences of CWD. A total of 25 states and two Canadian provinces have recorded the disease.

But the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has been vigilant in monitoring for CWD in the state, continues to aggressively sample through numerous avenues and is taking precautionary measures to prevent the import of the disease.

An area with increased surveillance this year includes the parishes of East Carroll, Madison and Tensas in northeast Louisiana. Those parishes are closest to where the infected deer was found in Issaquena County, Mississippi, on Jan. 25 earlier this year. LDWF biologists, technicians and veterinarians sampled 300 deer last spring within the buffer zone, which is within 25 miles of the case in Issaquena County, and found no evidence of the disease.

But the sampling didn’t stop then and certainly hasn’t during this current deer hunting season. Monitoring through hunter harvest sampling is a statewide effort not just centered near the Mississippi border.

“Certainly the biggest group from which we gather samples will be from hunter harvests,’’ said Johnathan Bordelon, LDWF’s Deer Program Manager. “But we have other targets. One of the most important is sick deer. Deer that demonstrate symptoms of the disease are candidates to have it. We’re responding to sick deer if not weekly then certainly monthly.

“In addition to sick deer we respond to escaped deer and exotics from captive pens. We also actively sample road kill. It should be noted that we test for CWD and for other diseases too.’’

Bordelon said the biggest sampling comes from hunter harvested deer, which can number from 130,000-160,000 each hunting season in Louisiana. LDWF samples Wildlife Management Area hunts and Deer Management Assistance Program enrolled lands so the specimens come from public and private lands throughout the state. LDWF is also working with taxidermists to obtain samples.

Not only are hunter harvest samples abundant, they also allow LDWF to gather samples from across the state.

Bordelon expects a large number of deer hunters will seek to have their harvest tested during the current season because of the CWD threat. LDWF has put in place protocols and procedures to take the samples (see the flyer on next page for more details).

LDWF Regional Offices will be able to take samples during business hours from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on Monday through Friday.

LDWF continues cooperative discussions with other state and federal agencies in the fight against CWD and to prevent it from entering the state.

CWD is a fatal neurodegenerative disease affecting members of the family Cervidae, which includes white-tailed deer. The disease is caused by misfolded proteins called prions. These prions can be shed in saliva, urine, feces and decomposing carcasses. Infectious material can contaminate soil, becoming available for uptake by plants, increasing transmission to additional individuals when plants are consumed.

CWD is 100 percent fatal. Once a deer consumes the prion and becomes infected, it develops clinical signs including weight loss, salivation, neurological signs and ultimately death. Clinical signs may not become apparent until 16 to 24 months after the deer is infected.

Additional Information

For more information on CWD, go to www.wlf.louisiana.gov/hunting/CWD.

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