YADKIN – The North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission announced March 31 that a sample taken from a white-tailed deer harvested by a hunter in Yadkin County tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD). This is the first case of MDC detected in the North Carolina deer herd and was confirmed by the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa.
Just down the mountain from Watauga County, the deer was harvested in northern Yadkin County in December 2021. The sample was sent by a taxidermist under a cooperative program established by the Wildlife Commission . Wildlife Commission staff have stepped up testing over the past season and collected more than 7,200 samples from cooperators and hunters due to the discovery of a CWD-positive deer 33 miles from the border of North Carolina last year in Montgomery County, Virginia.
“We appreciate all the taxidermists, meat processors and hunters who have helped us in our surveillance for chronic wasting disease,” said Brad Howard, head of the wildlife management division of the Wildlife Commission. “Their diligence helped us detect the presence of CWD now, which is much better than if the disease had not been detected. Now that we know the disease is in North Carolina, we will implement our CWD response plan to help slow the spread of CWD while preserving our deer herd and our deer hunting tradition.
Although there has only been one confirmed positive result to date, the Wildlife Commission continues to receive test results from this year. At present, the agency has received results for 60% (4,287) of all samples submitted and 76% (626) of results from a four county response area (Alleghany, Surry, Stokes and Rockingham) which was launched due to the 2021 Deer Positive at the MDC of Virginia.
Now that a positive detection has been verified, agency staff will continue to follow the CWD response plan in conjunction with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences, and will continue to share the agency’s next steps with the public through multiple communication channels. Public meetings in the affected area will be announced as they are scheduled.
“Although the detection of CWD is bad news, we have been preparing for this eventuality for decades. Our long term goal is to protect our deer herd and our deer hunting culture. To achieve this goal, we must work with our constituents to implement our response plan and refine our long-term management strategy,” Howard said. “We have been in contact with wildlife professionals in other states who are already positive for chronic wasting disease to learn from their experiences. Adjusting to chronic wasting disease is going to be a challenge for everyone, but I’m confident our staff and North Carolina deer hunters can do it.
Ongoing testing is imperative as it is nearly impossible to tell if a deer has CWD by observation. Signs of illness may not be apparent for 16 months or more after infection. The slow incubation period, ease of transmission, and lack of a vaccine, treatment, or cure make CWD an imminent threat to the whitetail deer population and deer hunting traditions. Given enough time, the disease is always fatal.
CWD is caused by abnormal proteins, called prions, that slowly spread through a deer’s nervous system, eventually causing spongy holes in the brain that lead to death. The disease is spread between deer through direct contact and environmental contamination through infected saliva, urine, and feces from live deer or carcasses and body parts.
For more information about CWD, including answers to frequently asked questions, visit ncwildlife.org/CWD and learn about KNOW CWD through this 5-minute video released by the Wildlife Commission.