Prohibiting chronic wasting disease from entering Georgia is an ongoing effort. Anyone interested in wildlife – hunters, wildlife watchers and processors, among others – are encouraged to help keep Georgia’s quality deer herd CWD-free.
CWD, a contagious neurological disease affecting deer, elk and moose, belongs to a group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, the same group of diseases affecting some domestic animals, including bovine spongiform encephalopathy or “mad cow disease.”
Hunters can help reduce the risk of spreading CWD into Georgia by understanding current regulations that prohibit the importation of live cervids and restrict the importation of certain cervid carcass parts from known CWD-infected states.
“The potential introduction of CWD poses a serious threat to Georgia’s economically and culturally valuable white-tailed deer resource,” explains John W. Bowers, assistant chief of Game Management for the Wildlife Resources Division. “We encourage hunters to be knowledgeable of and to abide by current importation regulations and restrictions.”
According to current hunting regulations, importation of any live cervid is prohibited. In addition, importation of any whole cervid carcass or carcass parts from any state with a documented CWD case is prohibited with the following exceptions: boned-out meat, commercially processed meat, meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached, clean skull plates with antlers attached, clean antlers, finished taxidermy heads or clean upper canines (buglers, whistlers, ivories).
This fatal disease attacks the nervous system of cervids and to date has been detected in 18 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces, including Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming and the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta. Virginia, Missouri and North Dakota discovered their first cases of CWD earlier this year.
Infected animals develop a characteristic spongy degeneration of the brain, which results in extreme weight loss, abnormal behavior, loss of bodily functions and eventually, death. Though scientific investigations are ongoing, current research suggests that the agent responsible for the disease may be spread both directly (animal to animal contact) and indirectly (soil or other surface to animal).
Currently, there is no evidence that CWD poses a risk for humans.
Other Georgians can help by reporting any known illegal importation of deer species or carcasses to the department at 1-800-241-4113.
Residents also should avoid feeding deer as this unnaturally concentrates animals and increases the likelihood of disease and parasite transmission.
Since 1998, the division has been testing suspect and hunter-harvested deer for evidence of CWD. To date, more than 5,500 deer have been tested with no confirmed positives. The states nearest to Georgia with a confirmed case of CWD are Illinois, West Virginia and Virginia.
For more information about CWD in Georgia or for general information regarding deer hunting in Georgia, visit the division’s Web site at www.gohuntgeorgia.com and search under “Hunting” and “Game Management.” For more information about CWD in general, visit the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance’s Web site at www.cwd-info.org .
Any hunter who observes or harvests a deer in Georgia that exhibits CWD symptoms should immediately call a local Wildlife Resources Division office or call 1-800-241-4113.