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Hunters in western Kentucky asked to take special precautions to curtail chronic wasting disease in deer

 A deer.
Sangsak Aeiddam/123rf Stock Photo
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A deer.

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) is enacting special regulations to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) among deer in western Kentucky for this year’s hunting season, which began on Friday.

No positive cases have emerged from the more than 32,000 deer tested for CWD by the KDFWR thus far. Robin Floyd, a Kentucky Fish and Wildlife commissioner representing western Kentucky, said this is a proactive measure spurred by a positive case found in Cottage Grove, Tennessee, in September.

“If a lion is charging you, you don’t want to wait until the lion gets to you and hits you before you take action,” Floyd said, referring to a potential CWD outbreak. “This lion has gotten really close to us, so we’re trying to take action before it actually gets to us.”

CWD is a transmissive and fatal neurodegenerative disorder that can induce drastic weight loss, stumbling, listlessness and other neurologic symptoms in deer of all ages, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There is no strong evidence for the occurrence of CWD in people, but the CDC recommends testing deer before consumption in areas where CWD is present.

Hunters in the CWD surveillance zones of Fulton, Hickman, Graves, Marshall and Calloway counties are prohibited from baiting or feeding deer. Carcasses moved within or through these zones must be tagged with the hunter’s information, including those harvested elsewhere in Kentucky. De-boned meat, antlers, antlers attached to a clean skull plate, clean skulls and teeth, hides and taxidermied products may be removed from these zones.

The KDFWR also recommends hunters in these zones wear rubber gloves and bring spare field dressing equipment for butchering and deboning to avoid cross-contamination, handling most carefully the head and spinal column.

All deer harvested in surveillance zones during modern gun (Nov. 13-28) or muzzleloader (Dec. 11-19) seasons must be checked for CWD at any of the following designated stations:

KDFWR CWD Check Stations 2021.jpeg
The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife
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A list of stations at which hunters can have their deer checked for chronic wasting disease.

Floyd said, by comparing the number of hunters who had called in deer to the KDFWR hotline and those who checked in at stations, the department determined the vast majority complied with the new requirements during the early muzzleloader season from Oct. 16-17. The few who didn’t were Amish individuals who were unaware of the changes, he said. Department officials will travel directly to them as an accommodation.

“[The early muzzleloader season] kind of gave us a trial run,” Floyd said. “There are parts of specifically Hickman County, Graves County that don’t have internet, that don’t have cell phone service. And I don’t know about you, but I get most of my news from reading on the internet.”

Additional guidance on hunting and trapping in Kentucky can be found at this link.

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