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Update: Chronic Wasting Disease in Deer

November 13, 2018

Bronson Strickland, Wildlife Specialist 


Voiceover:Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.
Amy Myers:Today we're talking about an update on chronic wasting disease in deer. Hello, I'm Amy Myers and welcome to Farm and Family. Today we're speaking with Dr. Bronson Strickland, Mississippi State University Extension wildlife specialist. Bronson, this is a crucial topic. The majority of us know what chronic wasting disease is, but for those of us who are behind on this, briefly describe what chronic wasting disease is.

Bronson Strickland:For those that don't know, it would be the deer version of mad cow disease. It's a neurological disorder. Unfortunately, 100% of the animals will die from it once the deer contracts it.

Amy Myers:Earlier this year, I believe a deer died from chronic wasting disease near Southwest Mississippi. Now as we round out 2018 fall season, another fatal case was found, except in Northeast Mississippi, correct?

Bronson Strickland:Amy, as deer season closed this past January, we had our first case of CWD. That deer was actually seen by a hunter. The hunter saw it die and then it was confirmed that it was indeed CWD in February. Well, this case is in Pontotoc County. This was not seen by a hunter, but it was actually a homeowner saw the deer in their backyard and called a conversation officer. Conversation officer harvested the deer and then that was where we discovered the second case.

Amy Myers:The deer was still alive when that homeowner saw the deer and knew what to look for and then did the right thing. Chronic wasting disease isn't contagious, so I don't have to worry about getting this disease myself, right?

Bronson Strickland:Chronic wasting disease is contagious, but it's contagious among deer. Regarding humans, can humans get it, we don't have proof of that occurring in terms of eating the venison. The Center for Disease Control cannot 100% guarantee that a human will never catch this disease. Even though there's never been a documented case, they're not willing to say that it's impossible for a human to get it. For peace of mind, what we recommend is to get your deer tested. The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, they're going to have locations all across the state where you can get your deer tested this fall and winter.

Amy Myers:I can still pet a wild deer if they let me and I can even feed them and stuff like that, right?
Bronson Strickland:Amy, why are you petting a wild deer? You shouldn't be petting a wild deer. If it's exhibiting that type of behavior, if a deer normally in a wild situation were to let you get that close to it, then there probably is something wrong with that deer.
Amy Myers:Besides not having a fear of humans, what are some other signs of CWD?
Bronson Strickland:Think about the name of the disease. It's chronic wasting disease, which means it's wasting away. Commonly the deer is going to appear to be very thin, very skinny. Another symptom is excessive salivation. Think of a very thin deer exhibiting weird behavior and drooling.
Amy Myers:This disease turns your brain into Swiss cheese.

Bronson Strickland:Unfortunately, yeah. When the deer becomes symptomatic, it means that holes are being developed in its brain and that is why it's always 100% fatal.

Amy Myers:You mentioned the deer found in Northeast Mississippi by spotted by a regular homeowner. If I see a deer anywhere around me, should I be vigilant of those signs?

Bronson Strickland:Most Mississippians are used to seeing deer. If you see a deer that's exhibiting this really odd behavior, the best thing you can do is to contact the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. Don't take matters into your own hands. Let a professional deal with that situation.

Amy Myers:You mentioned getting the deer tested. What do you encourage deer hunters to do? Where do I take my deer to?

Bronson Strickland:Single biggest thing they can do is turn in samples. The MDWFP needs to know, as well as the hunting community and the scientific community. We want to know where this disease is at. The only way to do that is for you to turn in samples. At the end of the season when we have hopefully thousands or maybe tens of thousands of samples, then we're going to know where the disease exist. The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, they are going to have drop-off locations set up all throughout the state. If you go to their website, they have a great video that actually explains the process, what to do, how to do it.  Once you submit that sample, you are going to be contacted by them. You're going to know if the deer you harvested tested positive for CWD or not.

Amy Myers:Today we've been speaking with Bronson Strickland, wildlife specialist. I'm Amy Myers and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day.

Voiceover:Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

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