Should deer hunters be concerned about Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)? According to Wikipedia, big words for this disease are “A transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) of deer, elk and moose.” In layman’s terms, this is a contagious neurologic disease of the brain where abnormal prions replace normal protein, the brain becomes spongy, the animal wastes away and dies.
Although this fatal disease among these animals has been confirmed in 23 states, it has not been found in Louisiana. While we can breathe a sigh of relief, don’t sigh too confidently because our state is like an island. We’re surrounded by states — Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi — where this disease has been confirmed.
While attending the annual conference of the Louisiana Outdoor Writer’s Association in Gonzales recently, retired deer study leader for Wildlife and Fisheries, David Moreland, talked about the disease and the impact it could have on our state should the disease be confirmed here. We visited with Moreland last week for more details.
“This is a frightening situation and one our state officials have taken seriously because should it be found in Louisiana, and there is a good chance it will eventually show up here, it could change the landscape for deer hunting as we know it,” Moreland said. "Restrictions have recently been put in place, serious restrictions, as to how deer killed in other states can be brought into Louisiana. However, before this change, whole deer or their body parts were brought to our state without restrictions.
“Prior to these new restrictions, we know lots of animals from out west were brought in and I find it rather surprising that we haven’t found it in Louisiana.
“Once the one deer in Mississippi was found with CWD, Louisiana officials began an extensive sampling of deer in the neighboring parishes of Tensas, East Carroll and Madison. They collected 300 deer for testing. To show how serious this disease is, when a test animal was shot, officials wearing gloves and all safety attire, put the deer in a sled. After removing the head and glands needed to conduct tests, the animal was buried six feet underground. Fortunately, none of the deer tested were positive for CWD."
Recent press releases by LDWF have addressed this potential problem. According to the release, the use of deer urine as an attractant as well as feeding and use of corn or other bait is discouraged but not banned as of yet.
“Should we find a single case of CWD, you can look for the use of deer urine and supplemental feeding to be banned in parishes in the area. The reason why officials are so concerned is that deer use their noses and tongues to communicate. Once a deer urinates or defecates, other deer are attracted and should a deer be afflicted with CWD, this highly contagious condition could be easily spread," Moreland said. “If the disease were to show up in several locations around the state, you can look for all supplemental feeding to be outlawed, this would be a huge problem for producers of corn, rice and other supplemental foods used today. The economic impact would be disastrous.
“On the flip side, a food plot is just as bad for attracting deer. How do you define a food plot? It can be anything from your garden to corn and soybean fields to a quarter-acre spot disked up and planted with wheat or something similar.”
Our best bet is to follow the law concerning bringing in animal parts from out of state. It also wouldn’t hurt to seriously pray that this awful disease never makes its way into Louisiana.