Wasting disease found in Frederick deer [VA]

By Alex Bridges - abridges@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Chronic wasting disease likely could threaten the region's deer population for years, according to the state agency studying the illness.
A 4-point buck killed in western Frederick County in late November tested positive for the disease, according to a news release the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

The positive test marked only the second time the disease has appeared in a deer specimen in Virginia, according to the release. A hunter shot the buck near the West Virginia line, less than two miles from where Virginia's first case of CWD appeared last year, the agency reported.

"The one thing this does is it confirms that last year's was not a fluke," said Nelson Lafon, deer project coordinator for the department. "We know the disease is in the area and it means we're in this for the long haul, and we've kinda told hunters and folks at those public meetings we held that we see ourselves doing this [testing] for years."

The agency foresees collecting 500 samples or more from the containment area during each hunting season and to monitor the disease in the hopes it doesn't spread, Lafon said.

The state's counterparts in West Virginia continue to find cases of CWD in neighboring Hampshire County, W.Va., according to Lafon. The agencies remain in contact almost weekly, he said, sharing sample data and other information to model the prevalence of the disease.

"It is, realistically, all part of the same outbreak," Lafon said. "Having the presence of that disease and then continuing to find it right on our border is what concerns us. Even if we somehow knock it out in Virginia, we still have that source, if you will, on the other side of the border. It makes it more challenging to combat.

"You know, the deer don't know the boundary, and the landscape's pretty much the same on either side."

The project coordinator said he doesn't think the latest case will spur more action because the deer was found close to the previous year's discovery. The department after last season banned feeding and rehabilitating deer, moving their waste, carcasses and parts from the containment area, and put a bag limit in effect for private lands, according to the press release.

"We kind of opened the tool box and we're already using pretty much every tool in there," Lafon said. "But it does mean that we're gonna continue looking for the disease."

The department also awaits test results on about 100 more samples. The agency cannot determine whether to change its strategies until after the season ends Jan. 1 and the department has received all test results, according to the release.

The agency lauded hunters for their cooperation in helping with the study, which covers Shenandoah and Frederick counties west of Interstate 81 and north of Va. 675 near Edinburg. Hunters submitted the head and necks of the deer they bagged and the department tested the samples for the disease, along with carcasses of those killed on the road.

"Hunters have done just about everything they can," he said.

More than a week remains in this deer-hunting season, and the department continues to urge successful hunters to submit samples in the refrigerated stations set up at designated locations. Collection centers likely will be open Jan. 2 for hunters to drop off samples, Lafon said.

CWD, which affects the nervous system, has been detected in 18 states and two Canadian provinces. The disease kills the infected deer, elk or moose, but no evidence exists to show the animals can naturally transmit the illness to humans, livestock or pets, according to the release.

Visit www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/diseases/cwd/ for more information.