The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks is urging hunters to remain calm as a deer in Issaquena County has tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).
The white-tailed deer was collected in late January and was reported to the MDWFP. The disease has been around since 1967 and has been seen in 24 states, but this the first case in Mississippi. While the disease had not appeared until now, Russ Walsh, executive wildlife director for the department, says a plan is in place.
“This is not a time to panic. This is a time for us to be diligent and allow the agency to enact our response plan, and to let us know if you see sick deer,” Walsh said.
The department says that infected animals begin to lose weight, lose their appetite, and develop an insatiable thirst. They tend to stay away from herds, walk in patterns, carry their head low, salivate, and grind their teeth. Walsh added that the deer begins to “waste away” after it is dead if it is infected with CWD.
According to the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance, CWD only affects deer, elk, and moose. CWD affects the body’s nervous system. Once in the host’s body, prions transform normal cellular protein into an abnormal shape that accumulates until the cell ceases to function.
While the symptoms are clear as it relates to deer, the potential danger to humans is unknown.
“We simply do not know if it can be transferred to humans and so that’s to the discretion of the hunters if they chose to eat that meat or not,” Walsh said. “Certainly err on the side of caution.”
If you have concerns about a deer that has been killed or one that you find, the department can test it.
“Once a deer is dead, we can test the deer through the lymph nodes or the brain stem, but the only way to definitively know is to test it,” Walsh said.
Due to the discovery, the MDWFP has stated that supplemental feeding is banned in the following counties: Claiborne, Hinds, Issaquena, Sharkey, Warren, and Yazoo.