New CWD management zone will headline December meeting

Published 3:00 pm Friday, December 8, 2023

JACKSON — A proposal for a new Chronic Wasting Disease management zone will headline the December Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Commission Meeting next week in Jackson. The proposal comes after a new positive detection of CWD in Harrison County which has no other positives in close proximity.

In fact, the nearest positive to Harrison County is actually Tensas Parish, about 156 miles away. It is protocol for a new CWD zone to be created when a new positive detection is found outside current CWD management zones under the MDWFP’s CWD management plan.

What could be of interest is how the commission chooses to implement the management plan. Over the past year, the commission has tweaked and reworked the management plan despite staff recommendations and national best practices for dealing with Chronic Wasting Disease.

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Russ Walsh, wildlife chief of staff, will present the proposal for a new Chronic Wasting Disease management zone in Harrison County. Chronic Wasting Disease, a 100 percent always fatal disease in the cervidae family, is caused by an infectious prion in deer. The prions are shed by infected deer into the environment where they can infect deer indirectly or positive deer can infect healthy deer by direct contact with bodily fluids. 

The new management zone, under the new rules commissioners made up in June, would likely place a portion of Hancock County into the zone but not the entire county like the previous CWD management plan would have. Commissioners voted to relax the CWD management zones despite human health and deer herd risks in June.

CWD management zones ban the use of supplemental feeding and carcass exportation in an effort to mitigate the spread of the disease. 

Chronic Wasting Disease remains a concern for Mississippi and more samples are needed. MDWFP reports 15 new positives came in today with 11 of them in Benton County and four in Marshall County. These two counties are a hotspot of CWD in the state and lead in total positives and samples. It is possible the disease could be all over the state but more hunter harvested samples are needed to detect the disease. 

MDWFP typically opens the meeting with a prayer from Jason Thompson, director of administrative services. Commission chairman Bill Cossar will ask for a vote to approve the November meeting minutes and December meeting agenda. 

Public comment will follow. Randy Coleman, a private landowner and member of the Mississippi Fox Hunter Association Field Trial, is set to give public comment. 

Thompson will present a license sales report. The report is important because 90 percent of MDWFP’s budget is funded by license sales. 

Law enforcement update will follow with Col. Jerry Carter, chief of law enforcement, giving statistics on how many citations were issued and the top five offenses for November. He will also recognize the officers of the year and present lifesaving awards.

December’s meeting is on Dec. 14 and starts at 9:30 a.m. There is no educational session before the business session. This meeting is open to the public and is at the MDWFP headquarters at 1505 Eastover Drive in Jackson.