FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources is taking action to protect and monitor the state’s deer and elk herds after a deer in northwest Tennessee recently tested positive for chronic wasting disease.
The always-fatal neurological disease that affects deer, elk, moose and caribou has not been detected in Kentucky. However, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s response plan calls for the implementation of specific measures following a positive detection within 30 miles of Kentucky’s border. This is because deer are highly mobile, and can range up to several miles in a single day.
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife activated its response plan Wednesday after the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency announced confirmation of chronic wasting disease in a 3 ½-year-old female deer collected in Henry County, Tennessee, which is southwest of Murray, Kentucky, and approximately 8 miles from the Kentucky-Tennessee border. The deer was thin and exhibiting strange behavior. Multiple tests confirmed the presence of CWD in the deer.
“While this news may be disheartening for deer hunters, including myself, the good news is the department has had a CWD Response Plan in place since 2002 and is prepared for this day,” Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Rich Storm said. “We are putting our plan into action now and working closely with our many partners on the state and local levels. I have full confidence in our expert team of wildlife professionals.”
Chronic wasting disease has spread to more than half the states in the U.S. since its discovery in the late 1960s in Colorado. The movement of deer is the primary reason for its rapid spread. An infected deer or elk can transmit the disease whether it is alive or dead.
To help prevent the spread of CWD into Kentucky, state law prohibits bringing whole carcasses of deer, elk, moose and caribou into the state because of this risk. The brain and spinal column must be removed.
Motorists who see a whole carcass or intact head of one of these species being transported across the state line into Kentucky should report the sighting immediately by calling 1-800-25-ALERT (1-800-252-5378).
Another reporting option is a new online app recently launched by Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. The free KFWLaw app lets people report violations anonymously. It can be downloaded from the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.
Parts allowed into Kentucky from outside its borders include quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spine or head attached, boned-out meat, antlers, antlers attached to a clean skull plate, a clean skull, clean teeth, hides and finished taxidermy products.
As a result of the disease detection near the Kentucky border, emergency actions per the response plan will be necessary in order for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife to increase surveillance efforts and to protect deer in Calloway, Fulton, Graves, Hickman and Marshall counties.
The Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission plans to meet at 10 a.m. (EDT) on Friday, Sept. 10 to receive a report on the situation and to discuss the implementation of the response plan.
The agenda for the special called video teleconference meeting will be posted below and to the department’s website at fw.ky.gov. The meeting will be livestreamed on the department’s YouTube channel at youtube.com/FishandWildlifeKY. A link to the livestream will be posted on the department’s homepage at the start of the meeting.
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife hopes that with the continued cooperation of hunters, farmers, taxidermists, processors, and landowners who have supported its monitoring effort, the deer disease will be managed consistently with the best available science. Hunter involvement is a critical component of the chronic wasting disease response plan.
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife will be providing more information in the coming days that details how hunters can help with this effort. One way hunters can help is to alert Kentucky Fish and Wildlife of any sick deer or elk. The department advises hunters never to harvest or handle any animals that appear sick or unhealthy.
Reports also can be submitted by phone and email ([email protected]). Kentucky Fish and Wildlife staffs a toll-free number from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Eastern) weekdays. The number is 1-800-858-1549. In addition to their name and contact information, callers will be asked to provide the following about their observation: county and date, number of deer found, and whether the deer were sick or recently deceased.
An online reporting option will be available soon through the department’s website.
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife has CWD-tested more than 30,000 deer and elk from every county in the state. Hunters contributed the majority of animals for testing.
This year, the department expanded its Deer Sample Collection Station program with locations strategically located to enhance sample collection and statewide data. There are now freezer locations in Calloway, Fulton, Graves, Hickman and Marshall counties.
At any of the locations, hunters can submit the head from a legally harvested and telechecked deer for CWD testing and aging at no charge using bags and sample tags provided, and placing the samples in the freezer provided at each location.
By participating, hunters will learn the age of the harvested deer and help Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s efforts to monitor the health of the state’s deer and elk herds. Results will be available online at https://app.fw.ky.gov/cwdlookup/. If a submitted sample tests positive for CWD, the department will notify the individual.
Information reported to Kentucky Fish and Wildlife through these channels will help the department monitor for the disease.
For the latest information on this disease, please visit the department’s website and follow its social media channels. More information about CWD is available at fw.ky.gov/cwd, cwd-info.org, through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website and at tn.gov/twra/hunting/cwd.