CWD has not been detected in Louisiana although it has been in 25 states, including Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi. Following the discovery of the first diseased deer in Mississippi the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) sampled 300 deer within a designated buffer zone, which is within 25 miles of the index case in Issaquena County and included East Carroll, Madison and Tensas parishes. CWD was not detected in any of the sampled deer.
Chronic wasting disease is a fatal neurodegenerative disease that affects members of the cervid family. The disease is spread through contact with infected saliva, blood, urine and feces from live or dead deer. Disease transmission also occurs through contact with infectious material in the soil, food and water.
The recent discoveries in Mississippi have highlighted the importance of additional monitoring by LDWF while incorporating preventative measures to stem the potential spread of the disease. Proper handling of deer carcasses after harvest can help in preventing further spread of the disease.
Louisiana is one of 41 states that have instituted cervid carcass importation bans prohibiting the importation of high risk parts. Along with the current moratorium on live importation of captive deer, these measures provide the best defense against potential disease introduction and spread.
The carcass ban includes animals of the family Cervidae, including but not limited to, white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, moose, caribou, fallow deer, axis deer, sika deer, red deer and reindeer.
Cervids harvested in other states may not be transported into Louisiana, except for deboned meat; quarters with no part of the head or spinal column; meat that is cut and packaged; clean skulls with antlers; capes; cleaned cervid teeth; and finished taxidermy products.
Recommended deer carcass disposal includes burial on site where harvested; disposal at approved landfills through official waste collection companies or simply leaving the deer carcass on the property in which it was harvested after the meat has been removed. This is recommended for all deer harvested regardless of state of origin.
Cervid carcass regulations have proven necessary in two cases this year. CWD infected deer from Texas and Arkansas were harvested by Louisiana hunters this year. In both cases, the hunters were notified by the respective state and the meat was incinerated by LDWF to avoid potential spread. The ash was then bagged and disposed of in an approved landfill. The fact that two known CWD deer were harvested by Louisiana hunters is significant because only a very small percentage of harvested deer are tested for the disease.
The two cases highlight the importance of regulations promoting best management practices that reduce the potential spread of the disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) there is no evidence that CWD can infect humans. However, it is strongly recommended that people do not consume venison from known CWD positive animals.
Deer infected with CWD can spread the disease even before symptoms develop. It can take one to two years for infected animals to become symptomatic. When symptoms appear they can include emaciation, lethargy, abnormal behavior and loss of bodily functions. Other signs include excessive salivation, loss of appetite, progressive weight loss, excessive thirst and urination, teeth grinding and drooping ears.
Symptomatic deer should be reported to the nearest LDWF Field Office.
Deer hunters who would like to have their harvest tested may contact LDWF Field Offices throughout the state. Those offices can take samples during business hours from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Please contact the office prior to the hunt to receive information on proper handling of the deer harvest for appropriate sampling.
LDWF continues cooperative discussions with other state and federal agencies in the fight against CWD and to prevent it from entering the state.