Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD): Should You Eat The Deer Meat?

cwd map

 

 

 

 

 

 

Map: Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance

This fall you shoot a whitetail or a mule deer in an area where CWD is known to be present in the deer herds. How do you handle that deer…should you eat the meat?

Research has shown that in an infected deer CWD prions may be present in tissues and body fluids, including blood and muscle, but they are most prevalent in the brain, eyes, spinal cord, lymph nodes, tonsils and spleen. Thus, it is recommended that hunters in a CWD area wear gloves and bone out harvested deer (or elk). Take extra precautions when cutting around or handling organs where CWD prions are most likely to accumulate.

Biologists have told us for years that there is no evidence that CWD can be transmitted from deer to humans. But now, meat from deer contaminated with CWD may be more dangerous than originally thought, according to ongoing research conducted by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the University of Calgary.

At this point in that study, 2 test animals that were exposed to CWD by being fed infected meat have become infected with CWD.

The implications here are enormous and game-changing. The CWD Alliance now says on its website: Public health officials recommend that human exposure to the CWD agent be avoided as they continue to research the disease. Accordingly, hunters are advised not to eat meat from animals known to be infected with CWD.

If you shoot a deer in a known CWD area, you don’t know for certain if that individual animal is infected with CWD. It may be or it may not be. Experts now say to have your animal tested for CWD before deciding whether or not to eat it. Contact the state/local wildlife agency for info on procedures and submission locations.

Sounds reasonable, but how practical is it for most hunters, especially those in the backcountry? How many hunters will go the extra step to have the meat tested? How is the test conducted, how long does it take, how much of a hassle?

Lots of questions that lead to big dilemmas. Every good hunter wants to kill and process an animal cleanly, and feed the venison to his family. Every good man or woman protects his family at all costs; if there’s the slightest risk that deer meat can be harmful, he or she will discard it.

If you so throw out a deer, is that considered wanton waste, which is illegal as it should be in virtually all states?

Then there is this. Even if you get your deer tested, the CWD Alliance says: remember, while disease testing is an important tool for detecting CWD, it is not a food safety test.

I say research where you are hunting, and know if CWD is a potential risk in the area. If so and you shoot a deer that looks, acts or smells in any way sick, obviously don’t risk the meat. If you shoot a deer that looks and acts normal, have it tested for CWD and go from there and make your decision—safety first

How Deer React to Extreme Hunting Pressure

???????????????????????????????Researchers at the University of Georgia put GPS collars on 13 does and monitored them during a period of extremely heavy hunting pressure with deer dogs.

Every doe hung out and hid in her core area until the dogs got too close and the heat too intense. The does then ran a mile or so out of their familiar area and found thickets where they could shelter in place.

Deer are crepuscular, wired to move at dawn and dusk every day. Once the sun started setting and the dogs and pressure ceased for the day, every doe got up and made its way back to its core area. Every doe was back home within 12 hours.

What it means to you: Bucks are crepuscular too, so you can surmise they do the same thing when subjected to pressure. They’ll try to hide and wait the pressure out, but when things get too intense they’ll run a mile or so and hide in a hole where there’s no pressure, no human intrusion. But eventually, after sundown, they’ll start making their way back home.

2017 EHD Tracker: Outbreak Spreads in Kentucky

KY more ehd bucks 2017

Jeff sent me this picture via Twitter of 3 more bucks dead from EHD in eastern Kentucky.

This update out of Pikeville reports a “significant outbreak,” and that authorities are responding to incidents at the rate of “1 dead deer a day and sometimes up to 3 dead deer a day.”

What is especially troubling about this occurrence of EHD is that it started so early, in late July, and it might not end till October, or whenever the first hard frost kills the midges that bite the deer and transmit the disease.

I have not heard any other reports of EHD across the country. Let’s hope it stays that way, but let me know if you hear of an outbreak anywhere.

 

How Will the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse Affect Deer?

eclipse map

On Monday August 21 a total solar eclipse will arc across the United States for the first time in 99 years, providing a rare sight for tens of millions of people from Oregon to South Carolina.

We humans are prepared for this event and looking forward to it. But what will the deer and other animals do when the moon blocks the sun and darkness descends and the temperature drops in the middle of just another day in their lives?

Truth is, nobody, even the scientists who live for a 100-year event like this, really knows.

While there is scant scientific info from eclipses in past years and decades, there are a lot of anecdotal stories—monkeys flipping out in the sudden darkness, birds flying around wildly, snakes going berserk…. Most of this is probably hyperbole and rumor.

But I did see where some hospitals are stocking up on anti-venom for Monday’s event, so maybe there is something to the snake thing. This makes me nervous, as I plan to view the eclipse while hiking in Shenandoah National Park, which has its share of timber rattlers. In fact I damn near stepped on a yellow-phase rattler thick as your forearm the other day; I saw it and ran like hell and never looked back.

But I digress. I found some info from MNN that says crepuscular animals—creatures that typically move the most during the low-light conditions of dawn and dusk, like deer—often mistake a solar eclipse in the middle of the day for an early twilight. Crickets and frogs may jump into a dusk chorus, and mosquitoes and midges may start their evening swarms. And in the midst of a total solar eclipse, it can be dark enough not only to quiet down diurnal animals, but also to lure out the night shift. There are many reports of nocturnal animals being active during totality, including bats and owls.

While I don’t expect deer to freak out, it will be interesting to see if there is a flurry of moment as the sky goes dark at 2:00 or 3:00 PM. I expect that the animals might move at least some, and I’ll monitoring it on a phone app that is linked to 6 Spartan wireless cameras that just happen to be situated within the eclipse arc from Oregon to Kansas to Virginia. Will be fun to watch and see what happens.

This Total Eclipse tracker is very cool, click here to see what it will look like in your zip code on Monday.

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD): Rules for Transporting Deer Across State Lines

I recently attended the National Deer Summit and was struck by the dire reports of CWD that came from the country’s top deer scientists.

cwd map 2017

Map Source: Tennessee WRA

To a man and woman, all the experts agreed that CWD is the most serious threat to our deer herds and hunting that we’ve faced in decades, and possibly ever. To a person they said the thing we must do to stop the spread of CWD is to immediately monitor and restrict the movement of deer and deer parts across state lines.

First is to immediately stop the interstate transport of live deer to penned facilities, something that does not affect the 99.9% of us that hunt wild deer.

Second is to monitor and restrict the interstate transport of deer shot and killed by hunters, something that will directly affect millions of us who hunt deer in different states this fall.

This 2017 information on CWD Carcass Import Restrictions from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is timely. While it pertains to Tennessee, the import restrictions are virtually the same for every state in the nation.

If you harvest a deer, elk or moose from a CWD positive area (highlighted yellow map) it must be properly processed before bringing it back into Tennessee. This rule is in effect to protect the state from the unintentional introduction of Chronic Wasting Disease.

How do you properly process a deer (or elk) that you shoot in, say, Wyoming or Saskatchewan for legal transport back to Tennessee, New York, Georgia or (insert your state here)?

Two big things to remember: You cannot throw a whole field-dressed deer into your truck and drive home across state lines like you did in the old days. Nor can you cut off a buck’s head with antlers attached and take it home.

You must:

Skin the animal and bone out the meat. Quartering a deer is not good enough. All bones should be removed. Pack the deboned meat in coolers.

As for antlers, if you saw them off an animal you plan to mount with the cape, you must thoroughly clean all meat and tissue from the skull cap.

If you want a European mount, that’s trickier. You must thoroughly clean off and clean out the entire skull so that no meat or tissues are attached to it. The Tennessee WRA also tells you to clean the teeth, something I never knew.

While state laws on this issue are similar, there are variations, so check your CWD transport regulations carefully.

What is CWD?

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a fatal neurological disease of deer and elk, including white-tailed deer, moose, mule deer, and Rocky Mountain elk. The disease causes degeneration of the brain and eventual death. In the early stages of the disease, an infected animal may not show any signs that it is sick. As the disease progresses, animals will show signs of weight loss, generally accompanied by behavioral changes. In later stages, affected animals may show emaciation, excessive drooling, increased drinking and urination, listlessness, stumbling, trembling, loss of fear of humans and nervousness. CWD is not caused by a bacteria or virus. It is classified as a prion disease. For more, read here.