Alabama Continues Monitoring for Chronic Wasting Disease

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State wildlife officials want hunters and landowners to know Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in deer has not occurred in Alabama and they hope to keep it that way. The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) is taking several measures to help prevent the disease from reaching the state.

Diagnostics to confirm the presence of CWD require collecting the skull and neck vertebra from adult age class hunter harvested white-tailed deer. WFF staff work with local clubs and deer processors to collect the necessary samples for CWD monitoring. A minimum of 300 samples have been collected annually statewide for the past 10 years. WFF staff expect to complete this hunting season’s collection and monitoring by Christmas. Collected samples are sent to the State Department of Agriculture diagnostic labs for testing and analysis. WFF appreciates all of those that cooperated to obtain the samples.

CWD is a fatal disease affecting the central nervous system of deer and elk. It belongs to a family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). The disease attacks the brains of infected deer and elk and causes animals to become emaciated (skinny), display abnormal behavior, lose bodily functions and die. It has been found in captive and/or wild cervids (members of the deer family) in 18 states and two Canadian provinces. 

Alabama is recognized as a leader in minimizing disease risks by preventing the importation of deer.  Alabama has had a regulation banning the importation of all cervids into Alabama since 1973.  Convictions for violating the importation ban carry a fine of $1,000-5,000 and up to 30 days in jail.  Many other states have since implemented some form of this regulation to reduce their risk of introducing CWD. 

Many Alabamians hunt outside the state and bring their harvested animals back with them. WFF requests that these hunters take the following precautions before bringing any harvested cervids from CWD endemic areas into the state:

• Remove the bones and package the meat; avoid cutting into the spinal cord or removing the head; also avoid quartering the carcass with any of the spinal column or head attached.
• Do not bring the brain, intact skull, or spinal cord back into the state.
• If you wish to take the antlers attached to the skull plate, thoroughly scrape and clean tissue from the skull plate using a knife or brush and bleach. Thoroughly clean all utensils afterward with bleach.
• If you are hunting in an endemic area, have the animal tested for CWD in the state in which it was harvested.
• Finished taxidermy products, including head mounts, are not known to pose a risk.

The ADCNR needs your support to maintain Alabama’s CWD-free status. You can assist the WFF with its CWD monitoring program by reporting any transport of live deer or elk on Alabama’s roads and highways. Call the Operation Game Watch line immediately at 1-800-272-4263 if you see live deer or elk being transported in Alabama. Contacting the Division immediately makes it more likely the deer or elk will be intercepted before it can be released. You should also call this number if you see a deer that exhibits clinical signs of CWD. Personnel will contact you to obtain additional information.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.