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Steps being made to limit the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease in deer

OXFORD – Three more Mississippi deer have been found containing Chronic Wasting Disease, bringing the statewide count to nine deer spanning four counties. The findings are causing serious concern, leading some to take measures against the spread of the disease.

CWD is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that is almost always fatal to deer. It can also be found in elk, moose and reindeer. The most recent findings involve deer in nearby Pontotoc and Issaquena counties. This adds to the prior findings in Benton and Marshall counties. According to Joshua Friedel of the Mississippi Wildlife Federation, there’s one more additional deer to the nine confirmed that is a suspect positive.

As a result of the confirmed cases, there has been a 25-mile area ban of supplemental feeding surrounding the known counties. As the disease is spread primarily through the transfer of saliva. Therefore, these supplemental feeders are thought to be a major contributor to disease transmission.

“Our concern has been that hunting feeders are allowed in the state of Mississippi, as they are in other parts of the country. Feeders put corn on the ground, and what you have is multiple deer and multiple animals that may lick, but not eat the same bait,” Friedel said. “So they’ll get in contact that way and spread the disease. It’s mainly of sharing of supplemental feed. By two different deer touching the same bait, and one of them has CWD, that’s how the transfer of the disease occurs.”

To date, there are no reported CWD cases in humans. Tests are inconclusive as to if there’s a link to eating meet from a deer with CWD in humans. Easy answer is that there’s no direct link, however there’s probably not enough data to conclusively say that.

Recently, steps to prevent the spread of disease have gone beyond just local bans. Mississippi House Republican Becky Currie of Brookhaven introduced a bill earlier this year tagged House Bill 768. The bill would act to “establish procedures to limit the spread of chronic wasting disease.” Among those procedures would be a statewide ban of supplemental feeders, citing “the taking of deer with the use of supplemental feed, natural deer urine, or mineral licks is prohibited.”

Hunters are instructed to report if they see a sick deer exhibiting unusual behavior to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. They will send an officer come out and look at the deer.

“The deer will act erratic or look emaciated. There’re some physical symptoms that you can see. However, it takes a while for symptoms to appear,” Friedel said. “It’s really just abnormal behavior. If a deer is approaching houses or making noises, those type of things are general symptoms.”