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North Carolina Deer Remain Free Of Chronic Wasting Disease

RALEIGH, N.C. (April 8, 2005) Although two deer in New York state recently tested positive for chronic wasting disease, or CWD, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission reassures sportsmen that this fatal and contagious disease is not evident in North Carolina’s deer herds.

Since 1999, the Wildlife Commission has collected tissue samples from almost 2,300 captive and wild deer across the state. CWD has not been detected in any North Carolina samples. To help keep North Carolina free of CWD, the Commission has issued a letter (pdf - opens to new window) to owners of captive deer and elk in the state, asking anyone who has received deer or elk from a facility in New York at any time, or has received animals from a facility with a New York connection, to call the Commission immediately at (919) 733-7291.

New York wildlife officials announced last week that two deer in separate captive herds tested positive for CWD as part of that state’s disease surveillance. New York officials continue to investigate whether the disease has spread to other captive herds or wild deer.

The infected New York deer both came from captive herds, which is a suspected method of disease movement, said Kelly Douglass, the Commission’s program leader for captive deer and elk. Findings like the cases in New York reinforce the need for proactive regulation of captive deer and elk in North Carolina.

CWD has been confirmed in 13 states and two Canadian provinces: Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, New York, Saskatchewan and Alberta. The New York cases are the first in that state and the first confirmed on the Eastern Seaboard.

In 2002, concerned about the rapid spread of CWD in western states, the N.C. Wildlife Commission moved to strengthen regulations for captive deer and elk herds here. New requirements included tagging of animals, minimum fence heights and restrictions on the importation and transportation of deer and elk. These tighter controls enable the Commission to track captive animals better and to reduce the risk of disease spreading if an animal became infected.

If CWD were to come to North Carolina, it most likely would be transmitted through an imported captive deer or elk, said Evin Stanford, the Commission’s deer biologist. In fact, that appears to have happened already in other states and provinces where wild deer seem to have contracted CWD from infected captive animals that were moved.


CWD is a wasting syndrome characterized by microscopic empty spaces in the brain. Afflicted animals exhibit unusual behaviors including:

lack of coordination
frequent lowering of the head
blank facial expressions
repetitive walking in set patterns
drooling and grinding of teeth
drinking lots of water and increased urination
extreme low weight.
Animals may not show symptoms for five years or more, but once they do contract the disease, death is certain. No treatment or cure exists. Direct, animal-to-animal contact is a means of transmission, but evidence also suggests that contaminated environments present risks. Humans are not known to contract CWD.

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