CWD Not Found in Wild Deer

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Results from a cooperative study between the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Division of Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the New Jersey Department of Agriculture indicate that Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has not been found in New Jersey's free-ranging deer populations. CWD is a relatively new disease of adult mule deer, Rocky Mountain elk and white-tailed deer presumably caused by an abnormal-shaped protein, which causes fatal damage to the brain and central nervous system. It can only be diagnosed effectively from examination of a portion of the brain.

For the survey, more than 950 brain stem samples of wild New Jersey white-tailed deer were collected during the 2002-2003 November, December and early January deer firearm seasons. Government veterinarians, biologists and technicians with assistance from faculty and student volunteers from East Stroudsburg University, Department of Biological Sciences collected the samples from deer presented by hunters at deer check stations throughout the state.

The samples were submitted to the USDA certified contract laboratories at Cornell University and the University of Connecticut. None of the 900 samples suitable for testing were positive for CWD. The statistical analysis of these findings indicate that if Chronic Wasting Disease is present, it would be in less than one-half of one percent of the state's herd. The confidence that this is correct is greater than 95%. This current survey brings the total number of wild deer tested to 1,402. An earlier survey of 502 deer was conducted in 1998 and none had CWD.

The nearest state to have a case of Chronic Wasting Disease in wild or captive deer is Illinois. This year, surveillance in New Jersey will involve fewer deer and focus on wild and captive deer dying with characteristic symptoms and testing of hunter-killed deer in locations requiring additional samples. For additional information on Chronic Wasting Disease, visit www.cwd-info.org and www.njfishandwildlife.com/cwdinfo.htm.