Recently, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission adopted regulations on handling cervid carcasses as a preventive measure to hopefully halt the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) into Louisiana.  Currently CWD is present in 31 different states across the United States, and the spread of CWD into Louisiana would negatively impact deer (cervids) by crippling herds through disease spread. CWD cases have been found in Texas and Arkansas.

Louisiana Wildlife Federation (LWF) is concerned about this threat and commented on the regulations when they were proposed. You can read LWF’s comments here: https://lawildlifefed.org/files/LWF_CWD_NOI_Comments.pdf

In order to combat the serious threat of CWD moving into Louisiana, in July 2016, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission issued a Notice of Intent to ban the importation of cervid carcasses (LAC XIX.V.1.119). Three portions of the original NOI were amended in the Commission’s September meeting. The first amendment addressed specifics about what kind of cervid carcass material can be transported into Louisiana. LWF supported this amendment as it allows for carcass materials to still be transported, but the portions most afflicted with CWD are assured to be removed. The second amendment addressed proper containment protocol of potentially infected cervid carcass material, and while LWF agrees that containment of carcass material is important, LWF strongly advocates for stricter containment methods (e.g., burial in municipal solid waste facilities, incineration). Finally, the third amendment set the implementation date of the ban at March 2017, of which LWF supports as this allows for adequate time to educate Louisiana hunters. The amended NOI can be read here: http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/news/40544

Why so serious? CWD is an infectious disease which causes the accumulation of misfolded proteins (prions) in the brain, spinal cord, lymph nodes, and skeletal muscle tissue of cervids- causing a decline in an infected animal’s temperament, appearance, memory, and is 100% fatal with no existing cure. Additionally, CWD has an incubation period up to 16 months’ post infection and an animal can appear asymptomatic while spreading prions. While the exact mode of transmission is unknown, CWD prions are easily spread through saliva, feces, and urine. CWD prions remain in soil for long periods of time, up to 26 months, and common grazing between cervids and agricultural animals occurs. To date, both cattle and sheep have only been infected with CWD through inoculation, but the potential for interspecies transmission exists. Since CWD prions aggregate in skeletal muscle, there is no doubt humans have consumed CWD prions, but human susceptibility to CWD is still unclear and considered low. The spread of CWD threatens deer populations, and in Louisiana alone outdoor, wildlife-related recreation generates $2.2 billion annually, with hunting generating $564 million annually, supporting communities and our economy.

LWF has been concerned about the threat of CWD for some time. In October 2003, LWF members donated $5,000 to support the CWD testing program of the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study (SCWDS), which monitors the spread of CWD. The SCWDS Lab, located at the University of Georgia- Athens, performs diagnostic testing and wildlife disease research for the members of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, including the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. CWD’s infectiousness, propensity to spread, difficulty to remove from infected areas, potential transmissibility to other animals, unknown harm to human health, and potentially negative impact to the state’s economy make it a topic of dire importance.

CWD is not in Louisiana at this time but we must remain vigilant and we applaud the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission for taking action to protect Louisiana’s white-tail deer herd.

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