ELKINS, W.Va. — The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources will expand the containment zone for Chronic Wasting Disease in the state’s eastern panhandle to two more counties. Berkeley and Mineral Counties will be added in July to the list of counties where a deer’s brain and spine must be removed before it is transported out of the county. The area was established in an effort to slow the spread of the cervid malady.
“There were two road kills in Berkeley County, a male and a female,” said Jim Crum, Division of Natural Resources Deer Project Leader. “It’s still west of I-81 in the community of Arden.”
The discovery of a sick deer in the western part of the containment zone, however, was much more troubling to Crum. The Mineral County deer was still alive and suffering from an unknown ailment. Natural Resources Police responded to the call from the public and put down the animal. A DNR biologist took the sample which turned out to be positive for CWD in both the brain tissue and lymph nodes. The deer was a female and almost four years old.
“That one was about 4.3 Miles south of Keyser, still east of New Creek Mountain and still east of Route 220,” said Crum. “So, it’s still east of the Allegheny Front.”
Crum hoped the spine of the Appalachians which divides West Virginia will serve as the barrier to keep the disease from spreading west. It’s already been detected in Virginia and Pennsylvania. There is at least some evidence a mountain range can be an obstacle to migration.
“I’m hoping that’s a barrier. Other states, like Wisconsin, have seen some geographic barriers. I’m hoping the Eastern Continental Divide is a significant barrier,” he said. “Now if we get ‘human assisted’ movement, we can’t stop it.”
Fears of the human transport of the disease to another part of the state are the reason for the ban on moving the animal from the zone without removal of the brain and spine, both areas where the prion carrying the disease are known to exist. There are also restrictions on baiting and feeding deer in those counties. Researchers have concluded artificial feeding can contribute significantly to the rapid spread.
Since the first positive case was detected in the Hampshire County community of Slanesville in 2005, the containment zone has slowly radiated outward. The rate of positive cases found during monitoring in the containment counties is now about 33 percent. One in three deer in the zone test positive for CWD. Most of those tested aren’t showing signs of the disease like the deer found in Mineral County, but Crum added there is an increasing number of those every year.
Chronic Wasting Disease typically doesn’t show physical manifestation in deer until the latter stages.