Editor’s Note: Chris Cook is the deer-program coordinator for Alabama’s Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division and is known as Alabama’s Mr. Deer.
John E. Phillips: What’s the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ plan if and when CWD is discovered in Alabama?
Chris Cook: There are numbers of steps involved in our plan to stop the spread of CWD if and when it ever comes to Alabama. We have a Chronic Wasting Disease Strategic Surveillance and Response Plan on the department’s www.outdooralabama.com website (https://www.outdooralabama.com/deer-hunting-alabama/chronic-wasting-disease-what-you-should-know). The first thing we’ll do is increase our sampling efforts in any area where we find a positive CWD deer to get a better handle on the distribution of the disease in that region. Then we’ll implement what we deem are appropriate management strategies, which may include some changes with the hunting-season structure and make the harvest of bucks and does a little more liberal, so that people can continue hunting to keep the deer population at at least a moderate level.
Management zones will be designated around the areas where we’ve discovered CWD – if that happens – and restrictions may be put on moving deer carcasses, heads or antlers out of that management zone. We’ll also increase our efforts to sample deer harvested by hunters for surveillance efforts. Let me reiterate – at this writing, we have no evidence of CWD in any deer harvested inside the State of Alabama.
To learn more about the protocol the state will use if CWD is discovered, go to http://outdooralabama.com, then go to the search bar, and type in chronic wasting disease. Those words will take you to the CWD page, and you’ll find a link to the plan on that page. We’re keeping that page updated with the latest research on Chronic Wasting Disease.
Phillips: Is it true that Chronic Wasting Disease spreads faster when you have an overpopulation of deer is on a particular property?
Cook: As with many deer diseases that can be transmitted from deer to deer, the transmission rate will speed up, if you have a large number of deer living in close proximity to each other. The good news about CWD is that it’s a slow-spreading disease. It’s not like a hemorrhagic disease that spreads like wildfire. But if you have a high deer density on the land you hunt, CWD can spread faster than if you have a lower deer density.
Another preventative option that’s being considered if we were to find CWD in a certain section of the state, would be to ban baiting for deer, because baiting causes more deer to come to one area for food than normally will come to one area. This way we’d minimize the concentration of and hopefully lessen the spread of CWD through that population of deer.
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Tomorrow: How You Can Help Prevent the Spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)