Chronic Wasting Disease in deer

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By VICKI BROWN

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is spreading in the United States. While there are no known cases in South Carolina, wildlife officials are encouraging local hunters to be on the lookout for deer that have this disease.

According to South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), the total economic contribution, of fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing to South Carolina is $2.74 billion with 31,958 jobs being accounted for. Hunting is vital to this state.

While other states across the nation are finding themselves dealing with a wildlife disaster in the form of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), fortunately, S.C. has not had the problem. But it could quite easily find its way here.

The Center for Disease Control states that Chronic Waste Disease is transmissible and is a contagious disorder that affects deer, elk, reindeer and moose. CWD has a long incubation period and pathogenic agents that cause abnormal proteins in the brain. This leads to brain damage and eventually, death.

It may take over a year before an infected animal develops symptoms, which can include drastic weight loss (wasting), stumbling, listlessness and other neurologic symptoms.

CWD can affect animals of all ages and some infected animals may die without ever developing the disease. The disease is fatal to animals and there are no treatments or vaccines.

If a hunter in SC plans to hunt outside of the state for big game, they must be aware of the disease and take steps to keep from bringing it into the state. CWD has been detected in 26 states so far, but not South Carolina or an adjacent state.

According to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR), those hunters should be aware of regulations prohibiting bringing back a whole (deer, elk and moose) carcass or certain carcass parts from CWD-infected states.

Hunters must be wary of the meat and carefully follow regulations regarding what can be taken.

The following carcass parts are the only items hunters may bring back from a CWD-infected state:

• Quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached;

• Meat that has been boned out;

• Hides with no heads attached;

• Clean (no meat or tissue attached) skulls or skull plates with antlers attached;

• Antlers (detached from the skull plate);

• Clean upper canine teeth from elk, also called “buglers,” “whistlers,” or “ivories;”

• Finished taxidermy heads.

Hunters traveling elsewhere should also check with the wildlife agency in their destination state and states they may travel through to determine CWD status and be aware of restrictions on the movement or possession of carcasses or carcass parts.

Report any illegal importing of carcasses to Operation Game Thief 1-800-922-5431. If a resident sees a sick deer, report it immediately to SCDNR. For more information go to www.dnr.sc.gov/cwd.

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