Additional CWD positives detected, samples flow in Louisiana, more needed across Mississippi

Published 2:09 pm Friday, January 13, 2023

VICKSBURG — Chronic Wasting Disease struck again in Warren County within a mile of three other positive detections. Each positive has been in close proximity to Mississippi’s first detection in Issaquena County in 2018. 

Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Deer Program Coordinator William McKinley said they are up to 62 CWD positives across the state. Fiscal Year 2022 had the most positives before this year with 51. While the majority of positives have been in North Mississippi, Northwest Warren County continues to find positives. 

“This was a five year old buck which was found dead. It was not harvested. It had already been scavenged,” McKinely said. “They turned it in. It is important because it shows what CWD does, it kills deer.” 

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Hunters in Claiborne County have submitted 113 CWD samples this year and Warren County has submitted 337 samples. Warren County has detected four positives since first detection in 2018. Two positives were detected this year although more positives could be detected over the next few weeks with increased deer harvests and sample collections. 

Hunters wishing to submit a sample for CWD testing can find a drop off location on the MDWFP’s CWD page. McKinley encourages hunters in Warren County and across the state to get their deer tested for CWD. The Center for Disease Control recommends people avoid eating deer meat from a CWD positive deer because it is unknown if the disease could spread to humans. It also helps find new areas where the disease is occurring.

“Keep testing deer and harvest more deer than usual. If you kill one once a year maybe take two. Increased harvest helps manage the deer density which is a tool in fighting CWD,” McKinley said. “Lower deer density is a plus in deer management and disease management. You don’t have to kill every deer you see but increase your harvests so we can get more samples in.” 

Mississippi has several hundred samples pending test results and usually those samples lag a little behind with collection so there is plenty of time to find new positives before the end of the season. 

Across the Mississippi River, Samples from Louisiana’s CWD management zone have steadily streamed in. Louisiana Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks deer program manager Johnathan Bordelon said the state’s second positive case of CWD was found four miles away from their first case in Tensas Parish and was confirmed Monday. 

Bordelon said they have collected 512 samples from the CWD control area in Tensas Parish, Madison Parish and Franklin Parish. 

“The pace of submissions has not slowed down,” he said. 

Louisiana’s second CWD positive buck was harvested by a hunter on private land. The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks reported the deer was harvested 1.5 miles away from the state line in Claiborne County. MDWFP is asking hunters to help ramp up surveillance efforts in Warren County and Claiborne County following Louisiana’s second detection. 

MSU’s Deer Lab research has shown deer swim across the Mississippi River to travel to home ranges. Buck 140 is the most famous deer from the project as he swam the river twice a year for a few years before being harvested by a hunter on Phil Bryant WMA in Warren County in December 2022. 

McKinley encourages hunters statewide in Mississippi to get their deer tested even in areas where the disease has not been detected. Average deer population per county in Mississippi is 18,000 and the chance of killing a CWD positive deer and having it sampled is slim early on in the disease spread because prevalence is low. Benton County, where most of the positives are found, is at a prevalence rate of 1 in six sampled deer are positive. More samples are needed to determine the actual prevalence rate in Benton County. 

“The likelihood of finding the disease early is slim. It is usually further out before we find it. We encourage hunters to turn in more samples,” McKinley said. “I could akin it to fighting a forest fire. You don’t start fighting a forest fire in the dead center, you fight the leading edges. We need hunters to find the leading edge of this disease.” 

Mitigating CWD spread

Chronic Wasting Disease is a 100 percent always fatal disease to deer. It is a neurological disease caused by an infectious prion, misfolded protein, which is transmitted between deer with direct and indirect contact with the prions. 

Direct contact happens when an infected deer transmits the disease to another deer with contact through bodily fluids. Indirect contact happens when the prions are shed into the environment and deer come in contact with the shed prions. 

Harvesting deer to lower deer density lowers the risk of infection, fewer deer to come in contact with, and provides more forage and browse for a deer population. Bucks are more likely to carry and spread the disease because yearlings are typically dispersed into a new home range. 

One way agencies try to limit the spread of CWD is mitigating unnatural concentration of deer. Best management practices recommend a ban on supplemental feed sites and mineral licks due to the unnatural concentration of deer. Food plots are not included in the supplemental feed ban. Hunters concerned about their herd’s nutrition can invest in food plots and habitat management such as prescribed burns, canopy thinning and letting native browse and forage grow in fields. 

MDWFP Commission voted to rescind the supplemental feed ban in the majority of Claiborne County at their November meeting following public comments requesting the ban be lifted. William Mounger II was the only commissioner to vote against the proposal and urged people to attend an educational session on CWD. 

Learn more about CWD

January’s commission meeting at the Cotton House Hotel in Cleveland will host an hour-long educational session on CWD after it was originally scheduled for the December commission meeting. This meeting is open to the public. It is tentatively scheduled from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

People looking to learn more about Chronic Wasting Disease can visit the MDWFP CWD page and watch a series of 13 videos about the disease put together by the MSU Deer Lab. The education project was funded by the US Department of Agriculture and is one of a few CWD projects the deer lab is working on.