Chronic wasting disease 100% fatal to deer

It sounds like something you might see in a horror movie. A monster attacks helpless defenseless people who have no way of escape as it mutilates and destroys everyone in its path.
There is a disease spreading across the country among cervids including whitetailed deer, elk, moose that is strikingly similar to the fictitious monster from the movies. When an animal contracts the Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), they die; there is no cure.
The Ruston Rotary Club last week heard ULM Professor, Dr. Kim Marie Tolston, share grim details of what happens once deer become affected by CWD. The disease has been documented in 22 states and as of January, 2022, Louisiana was added to that list. The malady so far has only been found in Tensas Parish but neighboring parishes are likely to learn the disease has spread to their locales.
Just exactly what is Chronic Wasting Disease? Dr. Tolston explained it and why it is impossible to cure.
“It is caused by prions that cause the brain of affected animals to form holes much like a sponge. These prions are proteins, not living organisms which means you can’t kill them,” she said.
“How does a deer get these proteins? It has to be ingested and spreads from one animal to another from saliva, urine, feces or other body fluids. If an infected deer feeds at a feeder and for instance drops a grain of corn or two and another deer eats it, it becomes infected.”
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has published regulations concerning deer that are taken in the control area, which includes all of Tensas Parish along with portions of Madison, Concordia, Franklin and E. Carroll Parishes. These controls include prohibiting of baiting, placement of bait or hunting over bait. In addition, only meat that has been cut, boned out and wrapped with no part of the spinal column or head may be taken from the control area.
Eddie Barnes, Ruston businessman, has a hunting lease in Tensas Parish and he shares his impression of what he has observed since CWD entered Tensas.
“There have been 22 deer that have tested positive in Tensas, our club has shot 16 of them,” said Barnes. “The only way to stop it is to reduce the number of deer. We have some 800 deer on our club and we have been instructed by LDWF to get the number down to 400. We hate to have to do it but it seems the only way we can reduce the spread is to take out lots of deer.
“After we shoot them, they are placed in coolers and LDWF comes and removes the heads and tests them for CWD. The deer that are cleared as not having it are quartered with bones removed, meat packaged and are taken to the Deer Factory in Dubach which processes the meat and donates it to Hunters for the Hungry.”
According to Dr. Tolston, the prions can remain active for at least ten years. “There was a pen where infected elk that had tested positive for CWD and were all shot and removed. Ten years later, more elk were put in the pen and they all contracted CWD because the prion was still active on the ground where they were penned,” she said.
“The disease affects not only mature deer but even fawns have been found with CWD. The only way to help control it is to reduce the number of deer in affected area because if one gets it, likely as not the entire herd will,” she noted.
The monster in the movies that wipes out victims is bad, but it’s just a movie. Chronic Wasting Disease is worse because it’s real. The entire deer hunting industry in Louisiana could eventually be subject to restrictions if CWD continues to spread.

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