Deer Health and CWD

Outdoors, Sports

I’m sure that everyone knows that we have a lot of deer in Towns and Union counties. With the amount of deer that we have there are going to be some unhealthy deer out there. Let’s talk about how to keep deer diseases from passing to you, Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), and bovine tuberculosis.

There are some common sense guidelines when it comes to deer health. If you’re a hunter it’s always best to wear gloves when field-dressing wild fowl or game. Don’t eat game that looks ill or is acting abnormally before you take it. Deer carry ticks and hunters in the woods are vulnerable to ticks because of the time spent in the woods. Using tick repellant is always a good idea. Always wash your hands with an alcohol-based sanitizer after handling deer tissues or meat. If you see old wounds on the carcass, the area around that spot should be discarded. Be careful about intestinal contents contacting meat, because they will contaminate it.

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is causing a lot of concern in the U.S. right now. It affects deer, elk, reindeer, sika deer, and moose. The main concern in the Southeast with CWD is whitetail deer. To this point there has NOT been any CWD reported in Georgia. It has been reported in three counties in west Tennessee, and six counties in Northwest Mississippi. Unfortunately, wildlife experts believe it is just a matter of time before it arrives in Georgia, which is why DNR is being vigilant in monitoring for it.

It is believed that CWD is spread between animals through contact with contaminated body fluids, tissue, or indirectly by exposure to CWD in drinking water or food. It’s thought that baiting deer could increase the spread of CWD. Deer coming to bait stations will most likely exchange saliva or contaminate the food. CWD has an incubation period of over a year before the neurological symptoms begin to develop. The symptoms of CWD are drastic weight loss, stumbling, lack of coordination, listlessness, drooling, excessive thirst or urination, drooping ears, lack of fear of people. An easier way to remember the symptoms is the deer look as if they are drunk. These symptoms also happen because of other diseases and malnutrition.

CWD is always fatal for deer. There has not been any strong evidence of it transmitting to domesticated animals or humans. If it were to spread to people, it would most likely happen because of eating infected meat. Therefore, if you take a deer that is expressing symptoms it’s best to not eat the deer and report it to DNR.

Deer can also carry bovine tuberculosis (TB). Bovine TB can be transmitted to humans but it is rare. Less than 2% of TB cases in the U.S. are bovine TB. Bovine TB can be contracted by someone when field dressing a deer and inhaling the pathogen. Bovine TB is also transmitted by eating or drinking unpasteurized dairy products.

If you see a deer that you believe has CWD report it to DNR. If you have questions about CWD or deer health contact your county Extension Office or email me at Jacob.Williams@uga.edu.

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