A federal grant is allowing the Maryland Wildlife and Heritage Service to expand testing for chronic wasting disease in deer.

For the first time since 2009, the Maryland Wildlife and Heritage Service will test for chronic wasting disease in deer from one end of the state to the other.

The $250,000 grant making it possible to monitor the fatal deer disease in all of Maryland’s counties comes to the agency from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The collection of samples has already begun.

“We know CWD exists in Allegany and Washington counties. This is an effort to determine if it is anywhere else in Maryland,” said Jonathan Trudeau, a co-leader of deer management. Most samples will come from meat processors where hunters take the animals. Hunters whose deer are determined to have CWD will be notified.

“A formula for the risk of CWD being in a county allows us to determine how many deer we want to sample,” Trudeau said. Garrett County (150 samples) and Frederick County (200 samples) are adjacent to counties where CWD exists so sampling will be greater there. Eastern Shore counties will provide 50 samples apiece, for example.”

“Garrett County has always been one of our larger sample sizes,” Trudeau said. A year ago, 130 samples came from that county. CWD has been confirmed in Mineral County, West Virginia, directly south of Garrett County, and in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, directly to the north, although in small numbers.

Maryland is a member of a research group centered at Cornell University, which coordinates information about CWD. Trudeau stays focused on the regional aspects of the disease. The recent discovery of CWD in Loudoun County, Virginia, is reason to pay particular attention to Frederick and Montgomery counties, which are across the Potomac River from that site.

Ditto in Harford County, because CWD has been confirmed at a Pennsylvania deer farm just eight miles from the state line.

Thus far, CWD has not been found in Allegany County deer west of Cumberland.

Maryland does not have a program allowing hunters to voluntarily have their deer checked for CWD, but will respond in the best way possible to any concerns or questions.

It costs nearly $20 per pop for a CWD test. Maryland takes its samples to a state-run laboratory in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The first CWD deer was confirmed in Maryland in 2010.

The Wildlife and Heritage Service contends that concerns over CWD should not stop hunters from enjoying the hunting season or any venison they may acquire. CWD has not been shown to be transmissible to humans. However, it is recommended that hunters who are field-dressing or butchering deer should take the same precautions as they would to protect against other pathogens or diseases. It is also recommended to not consume venison from deer known to be infected with CWD.

Mike Sawyers retired in 2018 as outdoor editor of the Cumberland Times-News. His column now appears biweekly. To order his book, “Native Queen, a celebration of the hunting and fishing life,” send him a check for $15 to 16415 Lakewood Drive, Rawlings, MD 21557.

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