DEP finds area deer to be free of chronic wasting disease

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:48

    SUSSEX COUNTY-Chronic Wasting Disease, recently reported in captive deer in New York State and in wild populations in the Midwest, has not spread to the New Jersey herd, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell said Monday. In Oneida County, New York, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets diagnosed the disease in two captive deer slaughtered earlier this month. The discovery of this fatal disease so close to home is causing anxiety among some local hunters, who fear the spread of CWD into the New Jersey white-tailed deer population. "Extensive testing of over 1,900 New Jersey deer since 1998 has failed to detect the presence of CWD in our wild deer herd," said Campbell. "It is critical that we continue to monitor the health of our deer herd and make sure that the precautionary ban on the importation of deer and elk put in place on April 15, 2002 is strictly enforced." Enforcement of the ban was triggered in February 2002, when a private deer herder with preserves in South Hardyston and Sparta in Sussex County violated the law by bringing in wild deer from Wisconsin. Local wildlife officials were worried that CWD could have been introduced into the state along with the deer; In Wisconsin, the disease has appeared among both captive and free-ranging deer. The deer, as well as the elk and sheep herds on the two Sussex County preserves, were quarantined and tested. Also tested were 51 hunter-slain deer from Hardyston, Franklin and White Township (Warren County). Every one of the deer was disease free. A defective protein, known as a prion, probably causes the wasting disease, which fatally damages the nervous systems of its victims. Infected animals lose weight, have head tremors and exhibit odd behavior, such as repeatedly treading the same short path. Months to years may pass before an infected deer succumbs to the illness. Chronic wasting disease was first identified in the late 1960s in Colorado, and since then has turned up in deer and elk in several Canadian provinces, and in other U.S. states, including South Dakota, Nebraska, and New Mexico. Veterinary science researchers at the Center for Disease in Atlanta, Georgia, believe it is likely the disease is spread when deer come into contact with saliva, feces and urine of infected deer whilst grazing. The World Health Organization has concluded that no evidence now exists to suggest that human beings are at risk for contracting it. "The extensive testing of wild deer herds in the tri-state area has failed to detect the disease in wild deer. Ongoing testing consistently shows no evidence of the disease in our state," McHugh said.