The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Department of Agriculture announced last week that a case of chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been discovered in the state. The disease was positively identified in a captive deer herd in Holmes County, and is believed to be the first case of CWD in Ohio. Wildlife officials stress that there is no reason to believe that the disease has been transmitted outside of the captive herd, which is currently under quarantine.
“The good news is it’s in a captive facility, so it is contained,” DNR spokesperson Susie Vance told The Columbus Dispatch.
CWD is a neurological disease that affects deer, elk, and related species. Common symptoms include weight loss, excessive salivation, appetite loss, and other abnormal behavior. It is always fatal.
Officials confirmed the disease in a single buck belonging to World Class Whitetails, a private hunting reserve near Millersburg. The facility has been under quarantine since April while biologists awaited testing for the disease. Since then, an additional 43 captive deer facilities have also been placed under quarantine. Some have been cleared of possible infection, while 21 remain on the restricted list. Five of these are high-fence hunting facilities.
The scare began earlier this year when captive deer farms imported about 125 deer from Pennsylvania, a state that has confirmed cases of CWD. Since the disease can be spread directly from animal-to-animal contact, Ohio officials placed the breeding facilities under lockdown and began testing animals for the illness. The buck in Millersburg is the first positive case of CWD so far, but testing continues on several dozen other deer.
“We have worked closely with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to identify and trace back positive cases,” said State Veterinarian Dr. Tony Forshey. “We will continue to take aggressive steps to ensure that CWD does not pose a threat to the state’s wild deer population.”
Hunters are advised to practice standard safety measures such as wearing rubber gloves when field-dressing game, avoid taking deer that appear to be sick, and informing wildlife officers if they see deer that show symptoms of CWD. Otherwise, officials encourage hunters to enjoy the ongoing deer season.
“We have no reason to believe that there has been transference to the state’s wild deer population,” said Scott Zody, chief of the DNR Division of Wildlife. “With hunting season in progress, there are no CWD concerns that should prevent anyone from enjoying wild deer hunting in Ohio or from consuming meat from healthy animals.”