Chronic wasting disease found in seven more W.Va. deer

ELKINS, W.Va. — A biologist with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources confirmed Thursday that seven additional deer have tested positive for chronic wasting disease.

All of the deer were harvested by hunters during the 2015 season and all came from the central portion of Hampshire County where CWD was first confirmed more than a decade ago.

Wildlife Biologist Jim Crum said CWD is known to exist throughout Hampshire County.

"Let's put it this way," he said. "There is no place within the 644 square miles of Hampshire County where you are more than five miles from where CWD was confirmed in a deer."

The recent positives bring to 186 the number of deer confirmed to have been infected in West Virginia since 2005. Four of those were from Hardy County, but the remainder were from Hampshire County.

The DNR has attempted to slow spread of the disease by making it illegal to bait for deer, not only in the counties were CWD has been found, but in adjacent counties. Baiting, which congregates deer and facilitates the spread of disease, is now prohibited in Grant, Mineral, Hampshire, Hardy, Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson counties. In addition, transportation of whole deer carcasses is restricted in Hardy, Hampshire and the western portion of Morgan counties.

Because the recent CWD positives are from an area known to already have the disease, no new regulations will be coming, according to Crum.

"We don't promote the use of bait or feed," said Chris Ryan, supervisor of game management services for DNR. "There are very limited uses of bait or feed in research and management. The use of bait or feed typically promotes the spread of wildlife diseases by concentrating those animals around a specific food source. In addition, harvests will be lower in years of higher mast abundance, primarily because the animals won't come to the bait and hunters won't change their routine."

In Maryland, 11 deer have tested positive for CWD, all in Allegany County. Recently, the Maryland Wildlife & Heritage Service took a different approach than West Virginia, eliminating an existing ban on baiting. Director Paul Peditto said the ban, along with transportation restrictions, had diminished deer hunting participation, thus allowing the herd to expand and become more susceptible to the spread of CWD.

Michael A. Sawyers is outdoor editor and staff writer at the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @CTNMikeSawyers.

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