DNR to Begin CWD Monitoring

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Maryland Department of Natural Resources Wildlife and Heritage Service Director Paul Peditto today announced coordinated, cooperative efforts to monitor for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) and to inform the public about this neurological cervid (deer and elk) disease.

"While there is no evidence of CWD in Maryland deer herds, it is essential that we take proactive steps to monitor our deer population, as well as limit the risk of introduction of this disease to Maryland," Peditto said. "This is a very serious disease, with no cure in sight and many questions that still need to be answered."

CWD is a disease of the central nervous system that causes death in cervids. CWD has been found in wild deer and elk in Canada, Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. It has also been found in captive cervids in Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Minnesota and Canada. To date, there is no evidence that the disease is transmissible to humans.

The new monitoring efforts will consist of DNR biologists randomly sampling 300 harvested deer at deer checking stations during the firearms season, and at selected managed hunts. Since 1999, DNR has conducted limited targeted surveillance for CWD, and no presence of the disease has been found. Three sick deer that exhibited CWD clinical symptoms were euthanized and tested, and six deer were randomly selected for testing. All tests were negative for CWD.

In addition to the increased monitoring, DNR is drafting new regulations to restrict the possession, importation, exportation and transportation of live cervids in Maryland. The movement of CWD infected captive cervids has been linked to the spread of the disease. The regulations will need approval from the General Assembly's Joint Administrative, Executive, Legislative and Regulatory Committee before being enacted.

In developing Maryland's action plan DNR has consulted with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the state departments of Health and Mental Hygiene and Agriculture. The department has also shared information and had discussions with officials from Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

All deer hunters are encouraged to follow general safety precautions after harvesting a white-tailed or sika deer:

  • Wear latex gloves while field dressing deer.
  • Minimize any handling of the brain or spinal cord tissue.
  • Wash hands and instruments after field dressing deer.
  • When processing the deer at home, remove the meat off of the bone.

More information, particularly for hunters, is available on The Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance Web site (www.cwd-info.org). In addition, DNR has developed a question and answer sheet which is available on the DNR Web site at: www.dnr.state.md.us/wildlife/cwdinformation.html