Hunters’ Help Needed to Keep CWD Out of Alabama

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources reminds hunters that a regulation prohibiting the importation to Alabama of whole carcasses and certain body parts of any deer from a Chronic Wasting Disease-positive state now includes Mississippi. The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks recently announced that a deer in that state has tested positive for CWD. A portion of Mississippi is open to deer hunting through Feb. 15.

Because the most likely way of CWD being introduced to Alabama is through transportation, it has been illegal for decades for live deer to be imported into Alabama. To further combat the potential threat of the introduction of CWD into Alabama, prohibition of the importation of whole carcasses and certain body parts of deer from any CWD-positive state was implemented in 2016.

Parts that may be legally imported to Alabama include completely deboned meat; cleaned skull plates with attached antlers, if no visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; upper canine teeth, if no root structure or other soft tissue is present; and finished taxidermy products or tanned hides.

CWD is a fatal neurological disease of white-tailed deer and other deer species, including mule deer, elk and moose. It is caused by a mutated protein called a prion. The disease is infectious, communicable, and always fatal for white-tailed deer.

Once CWD arrives, infected deer serve as a reservoir for prions which will be shed into the environment in saliva, urine, blood, soft-antler material and feces. There are no known management strategies to lessen the risk of indirect transmission of CWD once an environment has been contaminated. This makes eradication of CWD very difficult, if not impossible.

Wildlife Section Chief Keith Gauldin says that Alabama has had a CWD surveillance program in place for white-tailed deer for many years. “Our wildlife biologists have continued to sample our deer herd throughout Alabama for CWD testing since 2001. To date, no deer has tested positive for CWD, and we are asking the public’s help to keep Alabama CWD free.”

Citizens can assist the Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries with its CWD monitoring program by reporting any illegal transport of live deer or elk on Alabama’s roads and highways. Call the Operation Game Watch line immediately at 1-800-272-4263 if you see live deer or elk being transported in Alabama.

Deer infected with CWD will behave abnormally, often showing little of their normal wariness or fear of humans. It is important to note that other diseases may cause deer to exhibit similar symptoms. If any deer are observed exhibiting this behavior, please contact the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries office nearest you or the Operation Game Watch line at 1-800-272-4263.