DGIF warns hunters of Chronic Wasting Disease

CULPEPER COUNTY, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is warning hunters in Madison, Orange, and Culpeper counties to watch out for deer with Chronic Wasting Disease this fall. DGIF held an information meeting at Eastern View High School in Culpeper County on the disease.

CDW is a neurological disease in deer, elk, and moose, and for the first time, it was found in a deer in Culpepper County earlier this year. It is 100-percent fatal and is one of the most serious threats to the population of deer in Virginia.

Megan Kirchgessner, a wildlife veterinarian with DGIF, warned people of the symptoms at the meeting.

"Sick deer will be very skinny,” said Kirchgessner. “They will be neurologically inappropriate, so they may not be aware of humans or scared of humans. They may stand with a wide base stance, sometimes they're excessively drooling, but it's a neurologic and wasting condition."

Deer can have the disease and not show symptoms for more than two years. DGIF has designated Madison, Orange, and Culpeper counties as a Disease Management Area (DMA 2), meaning it is asking for people in those counties to contact state officials and tell them where they see a sick deer.

"Our goals for this fall is to test as many deer as we can,” said Kirchgessner, “to get an idea of how many deer are affected by this disease and where the disease is spreading geographically."

Mark Frazier is a hunter and safety instructor in Madison County and he wants to encourage those he teaches to help DGIF.

"If you do get a deer, get it tested. It's free and it doesn't cost you anything," said Frazier.

DGIF said the disease has not proven to be a threat to humans and officials do not discourage hunting the sick deer, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does recommend not eating them.

"The Centers for Disease Control does say that they recommend if it is positive that they do not eat the meat so why take a chance? I just hope everybody does comply with it because that way we know if there's a problem in the area or not," said Frazier.

If you see a deer that seems to have CWD, call the DGIF’s wildlife conflict helpline at (855) 571-9003 and tell report the location and when the animal was seen.

DGIF has banned moving deer carcasses from deer within DMA2, saying it is suspected to play a role in the spread of the disease. To get rid of deer parts from anywhere in DMA2, they must be double-bagged with nothing sticking out and placed directly into a landfill.

Hunters can voluntarily submit deer for testing any day throughout the 2019 hunting season, but on Nov. 16, DGIF said all hunters that harvest a deer must bring the carcass in for testing. For more information check out the link in the Related Links box.

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