By Kurt Martone
NEW YORK, NY (WENY) – Chronic Wasting Disease is a death sentence for deer, elk and moose in North America. The disease is spread mostly through urine, feces and saliva.
“For deer that it become infected, it is, uh, always fatal,” said Kevin Hynes, a wildlife biologist for New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation.
Biologists for New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation are closely monitoring the disease.
“It’s very difficult to control this disease because you’ve got the environmental contamination that’s there for 15 years or so. You’ve got deer to deer contact where they’re shedding this virus and their saliva. So, deer are very often licking each other, uh, and they all kind of congregate in the same area. So they’re exposed to each others species and urine. It is a nightmare of a disease to try to control once you have it,” Hynes said.
Symptoms of Chronic Wasting Disease include loss of balance, loss of appetite, uncontrollable drooling and loss of the deer’s fear of people. However, symptoms do not show in deer until two to three years after infection.
“[It’s] probably unlikely to see that on the landscape because, the deer would be either taken by a predator or die from getting hit by a car or taken by a hunter prior to that happening,” said Hynes.
New York currently does not have a known case of Chronic Wasting Disease. However, several herds of both captive and wild deer in Pennsylvania are infected with the disease.
“It would be nice to put up a fence between areas that are infected and areas that are not,” Hynes said. “There’s not a heck of a lot we can practically do about [this] … situation.”
The state cannot control how deer move around, but they can help control the actions of people. Since 2005, New York has banned the import of captive deer from out of state. New York has also banned hunters from bringing whole deer carcasses into the state from surrounding states.
It is unlikely that a deer taken in New York has Chronic Wasting Disease. Cornell University does offer tests for the disease if hunters are interested.
Chronic Wasting Disease exists in 30 states around the country, including Pennsylvania.