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No detection of chronic wasting disease in New York deer

ALBANY - Testing of more than 2,500 samples of deer statewide found no deer infected with chronic wasting disease (CWD), the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced today.  CWD continues to pose a threat to New York’s wild white-tailed deer as Pennsylvania discovered CWD in both captive white-tailed deer and wild, free-ranging white-tailed deer in 2012.  Since 2002, DEC annually has tested hunter-harvested white-tailed deer for CWD. The last confirmed case of CWD in New York was in 2005.   

“New York State hunting relies on a healthy deer population and CWD could devastate the state’s wild deer herd,” said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens.  “DEC thanks cooperating hunters, meat processors and taxidermists that contributed samples for testing. Successful CWD surveillance depends on all of us.  By testing both sick and healthy-appearing deer, DEC looks to identify the earliest intrusion of CWD into New York.”

Public reporting of sick and abnormal deer throughout the year is also important because these animals are collected and tested for CWD.  DEC’s Wildlife Health Unit conducts full necropsies (animal autopsy) to determine the source of illness or cause of death on many species, including deer. 

In 2012, DEC revised the state CWD surveillance program to include information on population density, deer age and sex, and risk factors, including border counties with Pennsylvania.  The goal was to collect samples from the highest risk areas.  For further details on the initiation and timeline of DEC’s CWD surveillance program, visit www.dec.ny.gov/animals/33220.html.

Hunters going to Pennsylvania and other CWD-positive states are not permitted to bring back whole carcasses.  Prions, the protein that causes CWD, concentrates in tissues like the brain and spinal cord and remain infectious to other deer.  It is permitted to bring meat and cleaned skull caps and capes back from a successful hunt.  The purpose of this is to prevent the importation of CWD-infected material.

CWD is a fatal disease of deer, elk and moose that is now found in 22 states.  It is in the family of diseases known as “transmissible spongiform encephalopathies” or TSEs, which includes “Mad Cow” disease.  No human cases of CWD have ever been reported, according to the Federal Centers for Disease Control.  

DEC continues to conduct its educational campaign to inform hunters and the public about CWD.  Prevention is the only proven management strategy for wildlife diseases.  Therefore, hunters are encouraged to protect New York’s deer herd by knowing and following the regulations for hunting outside of New York.  Deboning meat will remove the highly infectious parts. In addition to carcasses, urine can also contain prions that can infect deer. 

Avoid using deer urine or choose synthetic alternatives. Prions can bind to soil and remain infectious to wild deer for years.