White-Tail CWD Monitoring Started

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The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife is taking a proactive step by adding chronic wasting disease (CWD) to the list of diseases it routinely tests for in the state's white-tailed deer population. CWD has not been found in Ohio's deer herd.

"There are no indications that chronic wasting disease exists in Ohio, but we believe it is prudent to aggressively monitor Ohio deer for this disease," said Mike Budzik, chief of ODNR's Division of Wildlife.

The first cases of CWD were found in the western United States during the 1960s among captive deer. It has since been identified in wild deer or elk in Colorado, Kansas, Wyoming, Montana, New Mexico, Nebraska, South Dakota, and western Canada. It was recently found for the first time east of the Mississippi River when four whitetails in Wisconsin were diagnosed with the disease.

CWD is a degenerative disease of the brain that affects elk, mule deer and white-tailed deer, and is believed to be caused by abnormal proteins. No scientific evidence shows that CWD can infect humans, according to the World Health Organization. Colorado health officials have monitored areas infected with CWD for more than 16 years and have found no disease in people or cattle living there.

There is no CWD testing method for live deer, so ODNR Division of Wildlife biologists will be looking for deer exhibiting excessive salivation, trouble swallowing, or difficulty in moving about. Animals displaying these symptoms will be euthanized and tested. Samples will also be collected from deer brought to a selected group of deer check stations during Ohio?s hunting season in November and December.

"In addition to regularly examining the physical condition and reproductive success of Ohio's deer herd, we test for possible diseases such as bovine tuberculosis," said Pat Ruble, administrator of wildlife management and research for ODNR's Division of Wildlife. Ruble said that while tuberculosis has been found in neighboring Michigan's whitetails, it has never been found in Ohio's deer.

In cooperation with the Ohio Department of Agriculture, wildlife biologists collect samples for disease testing at deer check stations every other year. Annual surveys of antler diameter in bucks and periodic evaluation of the body weight for all deer have consistently shown Ohio's deer herd to be in excellent physical condition. Wildlife biologists also work with the Ohio Department of Health each year to look for the deer tick, which can carry lyme disease.

"As a result of these sound management practices and proactive monitoring of the state's deer populations, we are proud to say that Ohio has an extremely healthy deer herd," said Ruble.

Ohio's deer population is estimated at 500,000 animals and can be found in all 88 Ohio counties.