A white-tailed deer killed in Culpeper County last November tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease, according to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

The buck deer was tested as part of a spot-checking program last year where 50 taxidermists from around the commonwealth submitted samples from deer brought in by hunters. More than 1,600 deer were tested via this program.

Another 1,550 deer killed in the CWD-containment zone counties of Frederick, Clarke, Warren and Shenandoah were also tested. Two deer from Shenandoah County and 26 from Frederick County were confirmed positive. A doe showing symptoms of the disease in Shenandoah County was reported to DGIF by a citizen. That deer also tested positive.

According to DGIF, the hunter did not notice any outward signs of disease and the buck appeared to be in good condition.

The news is disconcerting. This deer was killed more than 40 miles from the nearest CWD-positive deer in Frederick or Shenandoah counties. The apparent spread is prompting additional preventative measures. These could include regulation changes and enhanced CWD surveillance, including checking more hunter-killed deer. The updated approach is expected to be outlined in a public meeting in late summer in Culpeper.

Chronic Wasting Disease, an incurable disease found in North American deer, elk, and moose, ultimately results in death of the animal. It spreads through the urine, feces, and saliva of infected animals. It was first found in Virginia nine years ago and has been detected in 26 states and three Canadian provinces. Sixty-eight Virginia deer have tested positive since 2009.

Infected animals may not show any symptoms for a year or more. Symptoms include staggering, abnormal posture, lowered head, drooling, confusion and severe weight loss.

According to DGIF, there is no evidence that CWD can be transmitted naturally to humans, livestock or pets, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise testing for all deer harvested from known CWD-positive areas. Humans should not eat meat from any animals testing positive. For more about CWD, see dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/disease/cwd.

Rockfish Season Derailed

As expected, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission voted unanimously (7-0) Tuesday to enact an emergency closure for the spring recreational striped bass trophy season. In considering the closure, the commission reviewed recent scientific assessments showing overfishing has occurred since 2010 and species’ numbers have has been below the sustainable threshold for the past six years.

“There has to be a starting point for conservation. Today’s action was the first step, and the Marine Resources Commission will continue to look at other measures for both recreational and commercial sectors to further reduce fishing mortality,” Virginia Marine Resources Commissioner Steven G. Bowman said.

Larger female fish, the main breeding stock, are often caught during the spring trophy season. Most are caught by recreational anglers after they’ve spawned in tidal tributaries, although many fishermen complain that commercial netters kill a significant amount of pre-spawn females just before recreational fishing seasons kick in.

Bowman called on the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to incentivize and encourage other states to follow Virginia’s lead and take action this fishing season.

The emergency measure eliminates the spring striped bass trophy season in Virginia’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay from May 1 through June 15, the Atlantic Coast from May 1-15, and Virginia tributaries to the Potomac River from April 29 through May 15.

The season on the Potomac River and Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay began Saturday. Early angler reports show spotty success. Starting May 16 through June 15, fishermen will be able to catch and keep two striped bass from 20 to 28 inches.

Virginia joined Massachusetts and Connecticut in sending a letter to the ASMFC imploring the organization to act swiftly. The letter asks for an addendum to Amendment 6 of the Atlantic Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan, with the goal of significantly reducing fishing mortality.

Fisheries managers in Maryland and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission have stated this spring’s trophy season will progress as scheduled and that they will await recommended changes from ASMFC.

DGIF News and Notes

A total of 625 turkeys were taken by youth and apprentice hunters in Virginia during the special early weekend set aside to give these novices first crack of a spring gobbler. That number easily eclipses the 457 taken on the same weekend in 2018.

Virginia has thousands of miles of trout streams, mainly in the western portion of the state. While many trout are stocked by hatcheries, wild brook, brown and rainbow trout also inhabit the streams and rivers. Nearly 60,000 anglers fish for wild Virginia trout, according to DGIF and the agency has a Wild Trout Management Plan that is being updated. Public comments are being taken until May 31. To weigh in, go to dgif.virginia.gov/fishing/trout/wild-trout-management-plan. Or, mail written comments to: Stephen Reeser, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, P.O. Box 996, Verona, VA 24482.

Karen Terwilliger, a DGIF Board Member from Locustville, Va., received the 2019 Robert McDowell Award for Conservation Management Excellence, the highest honor awarded by the Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. Ms. Terwilliger is a career natural resource professional with 40 years of experience working in the federal, state, and private sectors.

High Point Tourneys

High Point Marina on Lake Anna begin its Friday Night Tournaments May 31. Events run until Aug. 23. Entry fees are $40 per two-person team, with 100 percent return in prize money. A Sept. 28 classic tournament will be held featuring the top 50 teams for the year. For more details, email highpoint@highpointmarina.com or call 540/895-5249.

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