RALEIGH — The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources recently released partial Chronic Wasting Disease Surveillance results for the 2021-22 hunting season.
The report indicated that one deer harvested in Floyd County and one deer harvested in Montgomery County (Virginia) tested positive for CWD. This is the first time a CWD-positive deer has been found in Floyd County and it was harvested approximately 28.5 miles from the North Carolina border. This is just a few miles closer than the CWD-positive deer reported last year in Montgomery County, which was 33 miles from the border.
Yesterday, officials with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission met with State Veterinarian Dr. Michael Martin, with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to review North Carolina’s CWD Response Plan and consider this new information.
The Wildlife Commission’s level of CWD surveillance was amplified in 2021 in response to Virginia’s first positive case reported in Montgomery County earlier that year. Special surveillance attention was given to the four North Carolina counties closest to that case: Alleghany, Rockingham, Stokes and Surry counties.
Commission staff confirmed that over 7,100 deer samples have been collected across the state since July of 2021, a substantial increase over the previous season. Test results have been received from approximately 50% of the samples, and thus far CWD has not been detected. Results from the remaining samples will be received in batches over the next few months. Once all the results are received, officials will determine next steps for continued monitoring and response.
“These new CWD-positive samples in Virginia really highlight the importance of our surveillance efforts here in North Carolina,” said Chris Kreh, assistant chief in the Wildlife Commission’s Wildlife Management Division. “We received a record number of deer samples from taxidermists, meat processers and hunters to bolster our ability to test more deer than ever before for CWD. I’m encouraged that so many hunters are aware of CWD and the threat it poses to deer and deer hunting. I hope we don’t find that CWD is here, but if it is, I hope we find it as early as possible.”
Testing is imperative because it’s nearly impossible to tell if a deer has CWD by observation. Signs of illness may not be apparent for 16 months or more after infection. The slow incubation period, ease of transmission, and the fact that there is no vaccine, treatment or cure make CWD a looming threat to the state’s white-tailed deer population and deer hunting traditions. Given enough time, the disease is always fatal.
CWD is caused by abnormal proteins, called prions, that slowly spread through a deer’s nervous system, eventually causing spongy holes in the brain that lead to death. The disease is spread between deer through direct contact and environmental contamination from infected saliva, urine and feces of live deer or carcasses and body parts.
The Wildlife Commission has been monitoring for CWD since 1999 through coordinated statewide surveillance. Samples from nearly 20,000 white-tailed deer have been tested, and to date, CWD has not been detected in North Carolina’s deer herd. For more information about CWD, visit ncwildlife.org/CWD.