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Alabama steps up monitoring for Chronic Wasting Disease

January 5, 2019

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — After Chronic Wasting Disease struck deer in nearby states, Alabama is expanding its efforts to monitor the state’s deer herd.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is increasing Chronic Wasting Disease sampling surveillance efforts in northwest Alabama, Al.com reported.

.The effort comes after deer in nearby Mississippi and Tennessee counties tested positive for the disease. The deer were discovered about 40 miles (64 kilometers) from the Alabama border.

So far in Alabama, thousands of deer have been tested with no deer testing positive for the disease.

“The Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries has been conducting active disease surveillance for CWD since 2002, following the confirmation of CWD in Wisconsin,” said Chuck Sykes, wildlife biologist and Director of the Alabama Wildlife & Freshwater Fisheries division. “More than 8,000 deer have been tested with no deer testing positive for CWD in Alabama.”

Chronic Wasting Disease is a contagious and deadly neurological disorder that affects members of the deer family, Al.com reported.

“As CWD impacts the brain of the animal, its typical awareness of its surroundings is affected, explaining the higher predominance of CWD in road-killed animals,” Sykes said. “The testing of road-kills and those from our hunter harvested deer can greatly increase our ability to test a more thorough sample of the deer population in that area.”

Sykes said that symptoms “may take 18-24 months to express themselves, so a deer may have this disease but yet appear and act as a normal deer.”

“There is no way to tell a deer has CWD other than through testing, illustrating the importance of these surveillance efforts,” he said.

Deer harvested in Franklin, Marion, Lamar, Lauderdale and Colbert counties are being targeted, but biologists will sample deer from surrounding counties as well. Sampling involves removing the retropharyngeal lymph nodes from the head of a deer. Hunters may bring in a whole deer, field-dressed deer, or just the head from the harvested animal. Collecting a sample from a harvested deer takes only a few minutes.

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