By Gary Roeder, II
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a contagious neurological disease eating away at White Tail Deer, Elk, and Moose. It degenerates the brain and spinal cord. Keith Mitchell with Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA) states “that CWD is a Mutated Protein that cannot be killed with antibiotics.” This results in abnormal behavior, loss of bodily functions, and eventually a very slow and painful death. Animals often will not show symptoms until close to death. Symptoms include exposed bones and ribs, large diameter pupils, aggressive behaviors, and abnormal and repetitive walking patterns such as, circles, and pacing.
Observers and scientist’s studies have shown so far that humans can not contract CWD. It is somewhat compared to the Mad Cow Disease which humans can contract. Studies have also shown that meat infected with CWD can be potentially harmful and can make you sick, if untested or not cooked all the way. Though there are currently no records of CWD being contracted by humans it is still better not to risk foregoing testing the meat; have all the meat you may get or hunt tested just in case it is infested. Always take precautions while handling meat or any part of an infested animal, where rubber gloves, avoid cutting through the brain and spinal cords, and always clean up parts the animal if you field dress or even process it outside of a concealed area. And never dispose of a carcass where other animals can get to it.
It is not yet known how it spreads, but a good guess is that it is spread by the infested animals eating together through saliva and feces, it can also spread to a fetus from the mother. The way CWD originally came about is unknown, it was likely caused by pollution, or possibly is a result of testing that was done on mule deer in the late 1960s at research facilities. In the 1980s there were reports of deer and moose walking in weird patterns and having aggressive behaviors towards people and other animals, eventually it seemingly went away. To this date tests have been been unable to prove or show that it was CWD that was affecting the animals.
Mitchell says, “the only way to destroy the disease is to incinerate the carcass at 14,000 degrees Fahrenheit”. TWRA also would like to remind you to follow all laws this season and to always wear protective gear when handling any part of an infested animal, never bring an infested animal to a county or area that CWD is not already present. In addition, Mitchell advises hunters to follow all laws regarding the transportation of harvested game, Finally, he adds, remember to stay safe and to wear gloves while handling meat this year and always be aware of all the laws for your area.