CWD Not Detected in Deer Population

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New Hampshire's deer population shows no evidence of chronic wasting disease (CWD), based on monitoring data gathered during the 2004 hunting season. New Hampshire Fish and Game Deer Biologist Kent Gustafson recently received results from a federally certified veterinary diagnostic laboratory which indicate that all the deer brain samples taken during last fall's hunting season tested negative for CWD.

Chronic wasting disease is a fatal neurological disorder known to affect white-tailed deer, mule deer and elk. The World Health Organization has concluded that there is no evidence that people can become infected with CWD.

During the fall 2004 deer hunting season, New Hampshire Fish and Game collected heads from hunter-killed deer across the state for testing. A total of 385 deer heads were sampled. The monitoring is part of a nationwide effort to identify areas with CWD; as a result of these efforts, more than 1,000 deer have been tested in New Hampshire since 2002.

Chronic wasting disease was first identified in 1978 and remained isolated in Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska for about a decade. This spring, CWD was detected in both captive and wild deer in New York State, bringing the disease far closer to New Hampshire's borders than ever before. To date, CWD has been detected in wild or captive deer or elk in a total of 15 states and provinces. These include Alberta, Canada; Colorado; Illinois; Kansas; Minnesota; Montana; Nebraska; New Mexico; New York; Oklahoma; Saskatchewan, Canada; South Dakota; Utah; Wisconsin; and Wyoming. A nationwide effort is underway to prevent further spread. This effort includes collecting annual samples of deer tissue as part of ongoing monitoring and surveillance efforts.

People who make hunting trips to the 15 CWD-positive jurisdictions listed above can help keep New Hampshire CWD-free by closely following the regulations on bringing home deer or elk carcasses. For example, you can bring back ONLY deboned meat, antlers, upper canine teeth and/or hides or capes with no part of the head attached. Antlers attached to skull caps or canine teeth must have all soft tissue removed.

While research continues, current information suggests that CWD is most likely transmitted by an abnormal protein present in the nervous system and lymphatic tissue of infected animals. These abnormal proteins are very stable and may persist in the environment for long periods, posing a risk to animals that come into contact with them.