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There is some good news regarding our deer and elk herds in North Carolina.
In 1999, the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission began testing for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) amongst our herds. In 2002, CWD was found for the first time in a herd east of the Mississippi River. After this, the NCWRC decided to increase testing, with samplings being taken every five years.
Later, both Virginia and Tennessee found evidence of CWD and North Carolina’s wildlife biologists responded by implementing tests yearly beginning in 2018. CWD is a horrific neurological disease that affects animals such as deer, elk and caribou. The disease is 100-percent fatal, with no known cure or prevention.
For the 2018-19 hunting season, North Carolina tested more than 3,000 white-tailed deer, some that were taken by hunters, others by road kill and animals that were found dead. There was no indication of CWD seen in the 3,000 animal samples.
Since testing began, the NCWRC has tested over ten thousand deer, and based on those numbers you can see how much testing was ramped up with nearly one-third of the tests coming from last year’s season.
Due to the effects CWD has on deer that includes confused actions, it has been called a deer zombie disease, similar to the mad cow disease that became a threat to bovine in years past. It is also just another example in which hunters and outdoorsmen assist in protecting our wildlife.
Other diseases, such as blue-tongue disease that also affects deer that is spread by midge bites, are examples as well. Periodically, these diseases will spread quickly throughout an area and by reporting and identifying the causes, officials are able to limit the area in which the disease is spread.
But deer are not the only species. Often, things such as fish kills are also first spotted by anglers. They are able to report what species and where to the NCWRC or Marine Fisheries and seasons can be limited or ended, allowing the underlying causes to be found.
There have been fish kills related to things such as algae growth or parasitic infestations or even not-so natural deaths such as harmful chemicals from field run-off or manufacturing waste. From the information reported to officials, the problems at hand are corrected and the kill becomes limited and in control.
As for the aforementioned CWD, the NCWRC has stated the disease is the single largest concern for the deer population in North America. Testing and observations in not only our own state, but other states as well, help prevent the spread of the disease by limiting the areas in which it is found. The limitation or prohibition of transferring deer and deer parts from known at-risk areas can and will aid in the control of CWD from crossing to other herds and states.
And it is widely due to the information provided by the hunting public.
Bill Howard is an avid bowhunter and outdoorsman. He teaches hunter education (IHEA) and bowhunter education (IBEP) in North Carolina. He is a member of North Carolina Bowhunters Association and Pope & Young, and is an official measurer for both.