Chronic Wasting Disease not in La. ... so far

(This story was first published in the first quarter 2019 issue of the Louisiana Logger)

One of the first wildlife-related news stories that broke in 2018 was confirmation that a free-ranging white-tailed deer had died of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Issaquena County, Mississippi.

Given the cultural and economic importance of hunting in the region, this discovery raised considerable concern from the public and sparked many questions about the history and ecology of the disease, recommendations and precautions for hunters, potential impacts of CWD on deer populations, and strategies to minimize risk of further transmission.

In response, people involved in CWD surveillance and management operations worked to increase public awareness about the disease and to engage interested parties in CWD monitoring.

To date, CWD has not been detected in Louisiana, but three additional deer have tested positive for CWD in Mississippi since Oct. 1, 2018, and CWD will likely remain a topic of profound interest to natural resource professionals and sportsmen alike in the New Year.

Experience with other wildlife diseases has demonstrated several proactive measures we can all take to prevent CWD from entering Louisiana and to help with management of CWD in other states.

First, we can learn more about the cause of the disease and how infection occurs.

CWD presents fewer hazards when we take preventative steps, and once we have the facts, we can share them with family, friends, and colleagues to help slow the spread of misinformation.

Next, we can contribute to surveillance efforts by reporting any sick or unhealthy deer to state agencies and by submitting samples from hunter-harvested animals for testing.

Wildlife disease surveillance is key to early detection and can help wildlife biologists identify changes in patterns of disease occurrence over time. Most importantly, we can stay informed of any updates to public policy and act accordingly.