Mandatory sampling

Deer taken on certain days in Hampshire and Hardy counties in West Virginia must be sampled for chronic wasting disease. (File photo by Cumberland Times-News - Michael A. Sawyers, msawyers@times-news.com)

Hunters who kill deer in Hampshire and Hardy counties on Nov. 21-22 -- the first two days of the buck firearms season -- will be required to take the carcasses to sampling stations where they will be checked for the presence of chronic wasting disease.

"We anticipate taking samples from 1,200 or so deer," said Jim Crum, a wildlife biologist with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.

Because hunters checked in deer electronically in 2015, there were fewer samples acquired than the agency would like, Crum said.

"In the past we would get the samples at the local check-in stations, but that wasn't available this past year," he said.

The sampling stations are scattered across the two counties and are all at locations where deer used to be checked in:

Hampshire County

Slanesville General Store, Route 29, Slanesville

L&M Market, U.S. Route 50, Augusta

DNR office, 1 Depot St., Romney

Country Store, Route 28, Springfield

Capon Valley Market, U.S. Route 50, Capon Bridge

Hardy County

N&S Restaurant, Route 259, Mathias

A Corner Mart, 35 State Route 259, Baker

Vetter's Mini Mart, 421 S. Main St., Moorefield

Old Fields Country Store, U.S. Route 220, Old Fields

"We want people to understand that we won't be checking the deer in," Crum said. "That has to be done online or by telephone. We will be there to take the CWD samples and other information such as age and antler size."

The sampling stations will operate from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on both days.

Crum anticipates using up to 40 DNR staffers for the operation.

The agency is using a new contractor to analyze the samples, the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

"We will get the results in 10 to 15 days," Crum said. "Each hunter will be given a unique number to identify his or her deer. They will be able to go to wvdnr.gov online and get the results."

Crum said deer that have tested positive for CWD will be marked "detected."

Those without the disease will be marked "not detected."

Some deer may be marked "pending" as results are awaited.

Crum said DNR will pay the lab about $20 per sample. Federal funds that used to be available for such testing have disappeared. These payments will come from hunter license revenue.

Since the first CWD positive deer was discovered in Hampshire County a decade ago, there have been 186 diseased deer confirmed in Hampshire and four in Hardy.

"There are pockets of Hampshire County where we believe one in every four deer has CWD," Crum said.

By way of studies and surveys, Crum surmises up to 15 percent of deer hunters in the counties are cautious about killing and consuming deer, though he says the harvest has remained stable.

"We don't want to lose anybody (to deer hunting)," Crum said.

The portion of West Virginia's Chronic Wasting Disease Containment Area from which it is illegal to transport whole deer carcasses includes not only Hampshire and Hardy counties, but Morgan as well.

Hampshire and Morgan are adjacent to Allegany County and western Washington County, which make up Maryland's Chronic Wasting Disease Management Zone.

Candy Thomson, public information officer for the Maryland Natural Resources Police, said it will not be considered a violation if a whole deer killed in West Virginia's zone is brought into Maryland's zone.

An example would be a deer killed near Slanesville in Hampshire County that is transported through Paw Paw and across the Potomac River into Allegany County.

The reverse of that situation, a deer brought from Allegany County into Morgan County at Paw Paw, remains illegal in West Virginia, according to Crum, who said options are being considered.

It continues to be illegal to bait deer in Mineral, Grant, Berkeley and Jefferson counties, although there are no transportation restrictions.

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Mike Sawyers is a staff writer and the outdoor editor at Cumberland Times-News. Call/text him at 301-268-0630, email msawyers@times-news.com and follow him on Twitter.

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