LAST MONTH, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency reported the state’s first discovery of deer with Chronic Wasting Disease. Ten deer tested positive in Fayette and Hardeman counties, in the southwestern portion of Tennessee not far from Memphis.
Mississippi also recorded its first positive cases last year. More than half of U.S. states, including Virginia, now have documented cases of CWD, along with four Canadian provinces.
Most of Virginia’s sick deer were killed in Frederick County, with a couple more in Shenandoah County, adjacent to the West Virginia panhandle. The illness was thought to have spread from a captive deer facility in West Virginia.
Thirty-eight sick deer have been documented since CWD was discovered in Virginia in 2009. Sixteen were recorded last year. Any numbers from this current deer season haven’t been reported yet.
The disease is a slow, progressive neurological (brain and nervous system) disease found in deer, elk and moose in North America. It ultimately kills all infected animals.
Virginia has a containment zone in place with specific rules about how deer are to be handled if they were killed in that containment zone. The Commonwealth also places restrictions on deer killed in other states known to have any deer with CWD. The restrictions aren’t limited to deer taken in specific counties or zones in other states.
The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries added the entire state of Tennessee to the list of carcass restriction zones on Dec. 21. Whole deer carcasses and certain parts of a deer may not be brought back into Virginia from these areas. Kentucky has also enacted restrictions, prohibiting hunters from bringing any deer from Tennessee into the Bluegrass State unless the brain and spinal column have been removed first.
According to DGIF, the only deer parts that can legally be brought into Virginia from Tennessee include boned-out or quartered meat, hides or capes with no skull attached, cleaned skulls or skull plates with no attached tissue (with or without attached antlers), clean antlers, or finished taxidermy products.
While Virginia’s general firearms season for deer ends Saturday, some areas have extended seasons.
Both hunters and non-hunters can be on the lookout for any sick deer. A DGIF announcement about the Tennessee situation notes that symptoms exhibited by CWD-infected animals include staggering, abnormal posture, lowered head, drooling, confusion and marked weight loss.
Anyone seeing sick deer displaying any of these symptoms should contact the DGIF Wildlife Conflict helpline at 855/571-9003 with accurate locations information. Don’t kill or disturb the deer before contacting DGIF.
DGIF Conservation Police Officers are doing a good job in getting the word out about their activities to hunting and fishing license holders. They periodically issue a CPO Notebook that gives a rundown of some of the more interesting cases by region, as well as report on various community engagement activities in which they participate.
One thing that stands out is the way that game violators often get caught when ethical hunters make timely reports or when citizens see or hear something suspicious.
I don’t know if there are that many perpetrators who are just brazen or outright stupid, but the described actions help illustrate that they must have a certain different world view than law-abiding society: nighttime poaching, trespassing, willful and chronic exceeding of bag or catch limits, hunting or fishing under the influence of alcohol or drugs, duck hunting stoned in freezing waters with no flotation device.
The last couple of days of deer season are always a little scary, even for law-abiding hunters. Please don’t let any last-minute pressures to kill a deer result in doing something unsafe or illegal. It isn’t worth it.
Just type DGIF Conservation Police Officer notebook into any search engine and past notebooks will appear.
Southwick Associates, a survey research firm, conducts bi-monthly voluntary surveys of hunters and anglers, asking about participation and expenditures over the past two months. The company said when they obtain enough respondents the confidence levels are high (about 95 percent) relative to the surveyed audience.
Here are some selected observations from the September-October 2018 survey:
Not surprisingly, white-tailed deer was the primary game species with 66 percent of respondents saying deer were the main quarry. Many archery seasons open while the survey was conducted. Small game, doves and upland birds were next in order of precedence.
In looking at hunting gear and supplies, deer hunters also topped the market. Deer lures were the most-purchased items at 34.2 percent, followed by odor eliminator, game feed and cover scent. I’d note that natural deer lures (due to CWD concerns) and game feed (baiting and CWD concerns) are illegal in Virginia. Treestands and trail cameras were at the bottom of the list.
In the fishing arena, most freshwater anglers (58 percent) fished from the shore, while two-thirds of saltwater anglers fished from boats. Almost 20 percent of freshwater fishermen used non-powered vessels such as kayaks and canoes.
More than 60 percent bought lures and baits, the top item in the fishing equipment purchases category. Terminal tackle, led by hooks, swivels and sinkers, came in second. Fly fishing tackle was the least-purchased item.
Reflecting the increasing popularity of fishing in shallow water or from small craft such as kayaks, shallow water anchors were among the top items purchased in the “other types of equipment” category.