Public meeting on chronic wasting disease scheduled for September 22 in Florence

Deer with chronic wasting disease
Kansas deer with CWD [Photo courtesy of Mike Hopper, Kansas Dept. of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism]

Deer hunters are encouraged to attend a meeting in Florence organized by the Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR). The public meeting will be in Florence, Alabama on Thursday, September 22 to discuss chronic debilitating disease (CWD) detected in Lauderdale County earlier this year. Two cases were found in northern Alabama this year, just four years after the deer illness was the first. discovered in Mississippi

Chronic wasting disease is a communicable disease that affects deer, elk and other cervids. It is believed to be caused by an infectious prion and has a long incubation period. Diagnosis requires an examination of the brain and lymphatic tissue. Infected deer become emaciated, behave erratically, and eventually die. Chronic cachexia is caused by a denatured protein called a prion.

The best-known prion disease is “mad cow disease” (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) which devastated Britain’s meat and dairy industry after killing several people who had eaten the affected meat. Control of the disease caused enormous damage to the agricultural economy in Britain and resulted in government orders to destroy 4.5 million head of cattle.

Most diseases are infectious diseases in which a pathogen invades the body and the immune system fights off the invading species. Prions are not well understood, but they accumulate in the brain and spinal system until they reach a critical mass and the animal goes into inevitable decline. Since a prion is not a living thing, it remains even after the deer has died. The deer are contaminated by exposure to the carcass of dead deer that were infected with chronic wasting disease.

Many unethical hunters take the meat of a deer they have killed and dump the head and other parts in the woods. If that deer was infected with CWD, the prions will remain. USDA Research on CWD shows that it can stay in the ground for decades; therefore, a property that has had CWD-infected deer will likely still have CWD prions decades later, even if the area was completely depopulated of cervids.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report no strong evidence that chronic wasting disease can infect humans. Researchers have been able to infect squirrel monkeys and laboratory mice with chronic wasting disease. As a precaution, humans should not consume brain or spinal cord materials.

ADCNR has regulations against importing venison, elk, mule deer, elk, or other cervid meat from CWD-infected states unless it is completely deboned. The regulations are designed to prevent the spread of CWD to Alabama, but to be effective, everyone must participate.

The meeting will be held from 6:00 to 8:00 pm in the Norton Auditorium of the University of North Alabama, located at 1 Harrison Plaza. Both the public and the media are encouraged to attend.

WFF officials will provide an overview of ADCNR’s response to the CWD, including a new hunting regulation and the CWD Management Zone covering Lauderdale and Colbert counties. The presentation will be followed by a question and answer session.

Due to the detection of CWD in Lauderdale County, ADCNR enacted a new regulation for Lauderdale and Colbert Counties, as outlined in the Alabama CWD Surveillance and Response Plan for the Remainder of the 2021-2022 Hunting Season . All Lauderdale and Colbert counties are designated as CWD Management Zone (CMZ). The area west of US Highway 43 in Lauderdale County to the Mississippi and Tennessee state lines and south to the Tennessee River is designated a High Hazard Area (HRZ). The rest of Lauderdale County and all of Colbert County are designated as a buffer zone.

Last winter, there were no daily or seasonal bag limit restrictions on antlerless or antlerless deer within the CMZ. There were also no antler restrictions for deer taken on privately owned or open permit public lands in Lauderdale or Colbert counties for the remainder of the 2021-2022 deer season. Carcasses or other deer parts could not be moved outside the HRZ or CMZ.

Small game and waterfowl hunting have been closed for the remainder of the 2021-2022 deer season for several of the Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) and Community Game Areas (CHAs) within the zone.

ADCNR will reveal new CWD rules for the 2022-2023 hunting season.

ADCNR promotes the wise stewardship, management, and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Freshwater Wildlife and Fisheries.

bow season starts in October. Check your specific area for exact season dates.

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