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DNR Continues Monitoring CWD Zone


Wildlife biologists continue to keep a close eye on the process of chronic wasting diseases in West Virginia‘s eastern panhandle.  Since the first discovery in 2005 in a road killed deer, biologists have set up a containment area.   They regularly sample large numbers of deer, taken during specially designed hunting seasons in hopes of getting a better understanding of what the disease is doing.

"A one mile radius around all known positives is about a 30-square mile area," said DNR Biologist Jim Crum.  "Including the first discovery in ’05, the total number is 45-animals."

The first deer found to have the infection was discovered along a highway in the community of Slanesville.  The town has now become the epicenter of an effort to slow the spread of the debilitating disease that can eventually cause a deer to die a slow and wretched death.  There’s no known cure, and frankly no known cause.

"It’s a slow process," said Crum.  "It’s not a disease that causes widespread mortality like we usually expect a disease situation.  It’s like setting your couch on fire and your house burns down 30-years later."

Test results are still being analyzed from the most recent collection of deer in the county from last month.   Crum says to date, they haven’t found a deer that is actually in the latter stages of the virus.    Those latter stages are when the symptoms become most prevalent with emaciated body conditions and obvious confusion by the deer.    Crum says finding such an animal is like hunting for a needle in a haystack.

"It has an incubation period of up to five years.  In West Virginia most deer don’t live five years," explained Crum. "It’s almost certainly had to happen, it’s just a matter of numbers when you start thinking about the fact that numbers who we have about one deer per square mile that might be dying, but finding that individual animal in 640-square acres is not a high probability item."

Crum says his counterparts in other states where CWD has been detected are surprised that five years after the discovery, there’s been no deer found actually dying of the disease.

"There may be something else going on," said Crum. "That’s something we’re working on as we gather this information."

Crum says with the incubation process so slow, and difficulty in detecting the virus it’s hard to say if the methods instituted early in the discovery process have been effective in slowing down the virus. 


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