CWD Update: Early detection crucial in Louisiana’s fight against disease 

Published 1:45 pm Tuesday, November 15, 2022

By Hunter Cloud | The Natchez Democrat, special to The Vicksburg Post

JACKSON — Chronic Wasting Disease detections and cases are rolling into the Mississippi Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks with primitive firearm season opening up this weekend. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries had some samples collected in the management zone of Tensas, Franklin and Madison Parish but no new detections. 

CWD is a neurological disease caused by an infectious prion, a misfolded protein, which is transmitted by deer to other deer through bodily fluids, hair and fecal matter and contaminated environments. It is 100 percent fatal in deer and there is no known cure or vaccine for the disease. 

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The Center for Disease Control’s best practices for controlling CWD is to limit the spread through hunter-harvest and conduct surveillance to find hotspots of the disease. Surveillance is done through hunter-submitted samples, you can visit the MDWFP and LDWF websites to find drop-off locations to submit samples. LDWF Deer Program Director Johnathan Bordelon said the goal for Louisiana is to make early detections of the disease to be effective in mitigation strategies.  

“Hunter surveillance is necessary for that to be a possibility. The future of deer hunting as we know it is contingent upon healthy and productive herds,” Bordelon said. “Increased mortality from disease, lowered age structure and environmental contamination from disease, increased human exposure and long-term population impacts are all concerns and reasons to get in the fight against CWD. It is important to recognize both prevalence and distribution will never be less than it is today. Early detection may slow down the spread and impacts from the disease.” 

At this time, it is recommended people should avoid eating meat from a CWD-positive deer because it is not known if it is dangerous for humans or not. 

Hunters in Mississippi have submitted 589 samples for CWD testing, which is above the 572 harvests reported through MDWFP’s Game Check. People should report their harvests on the game check because it provides valuable county-by-county data on deer numbers used in developing management strategies. 

Game Check can be found on the MDWFP website and phone app. Hunters in Louisiana’s CWD Control Area have submitted 31 samples. Bordelon said he expects those numbers to grow over the next few weeks with primitive firearm and firearm seasons opening. He said they plan to work on collecting samples at the Tensas National Wildlife Refuge, an 80,000-acre refuge in Tensas and Madison Parishes, the second weekend of December. 

“The plan is to sample as many deer as possible that weekend,” Bordelon said. “We will sample hunter-harvested deer on Buckhorn WMA and Big Lake WMA the week after Thanksgiving. That particular weekend has a mandatory deer check on the WMAs. The goal is to collect a minimum of 300 samples across the control area this fall with the hope of exceeding the minimum.”

Eight new positive cases of CWD have been detected in Mississippi this season. One of those was in Warren County and the rest have been in north Mississippi. Louisiana has yet to detect any new positives with continued testing in Union and Morehouse Parish. Bordelon said they had 312 samples collected there over the past three weeks and some results are still pending.

“We met the surveillance goal while working through the weekend. That area is of concern due to last year’s detection of CWD on Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge,” Bordelon said. “To date, no additional detections have been recorded by either Arkansas or Louisiana. We have in excess of 650 samples within 25 miles of the positive in Arkansas since the positive was detected in south Arkansas in December of last year. We are feeling better about our surveillance in the north-central border parishes.” 

Public comment concerning Chronic Wasting Disease and Supplemental Feeding Ban imposed on Claiborne County due to detection close to the county in Louisiana is on the agenda for the next MDWFP commission meeting. Charlie Davis of McComb will make a comment on the topic before the board of commissioners on Nov. 17. The meeting will start at 9 a.m.