CWD Update: New Mississippi zone will go into effect in February

Published 2:00 pm Thursday, December 14, 2023

JACKSON — Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Commissioners voted to implement a Chronic Wasting Disease Management Zone for Harrison County during a commission meeting Thursday. This zone goes into effect on February 16, 2024.

A Chronic Wasting Disease Management Zone is part of the MDWFP’s Management Plan. Zones are routinely implemented when a CWD positive is found in a new county of the state. Carcass transportation and supplemental feeding are banned in these zones to help mitigate the spread of the 100 percent, always fatal infectious disease in deer and other members of the cervidae family. 

CWD is caused by an infectious prion which is a neurodegenerative disease. It is spread through direct contact with an infected deer to healthy deer through bodily fluids or indirectly through environmental contamination. Infected deer shed prions into the environment in bodily fluids and these prions persist for long periods of time. 

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Harrison County’s new zone is created under the commission’s new 10 mile radius rule. All portions of Harrison County west of US-49 and portions of Hancock County east of MS-53, 603 and 43.

MDWFP announced Harrison County’s first confirmed CWD positive on December 1. Harrison County is one of the lowest sampled counties in Mississippi. Wildlife Bureau Chief of Staff Russ Walsh said in Fiscal Year 2024, which is July 1, 2023 to June 30, 2024, nine samples were submitted in Harrison County with one positive found. 

“We hope the freezers and taxidermists will get more samples now,” Walsh said. 

Taxidermists participating in CWD sampling receive $10 from MDWFP for each sample to cover costs of time and materials. 

Walsh said the lymph nodes sample from a two and a half year old buck killed on private land was tested three times at the Mississippi State University Veterinary Research and Diagnostic Lab in Pearl and came back positive each time. The new county positive was then sent to Ames, Iowa to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory where it was confirmed positive. Additional samples taken from the brain tissue and skull of the buck tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease. 

It is routine for CWD samples to be tested multiple times at the lab in Pearl. Samples in counties where CWD is already prevalent are not sent to Ames to be confirmed due to the extensive testing done in Pearl. 

More sampling is needed

Since first detection of CWD in 2018, 244 positives have been detected. MDWFP reports 37 positives this year out of 3,000 samples so far. More samples are needed from across the state to find the disease and help mitigate the spread. MDWFP’s Deer Program has a goal of 300 samples per county each year to try and detect the disease. 

Lincoln County is one of the undersampled counties with 483 samples gathered since 2018. 

CWD samples can be dropped off at self serve coolers around the state or participating taxidermists. The closest drop-off cooler to Lincoln County is in Hazlehurst at the Mississippi State Extension Service Office there. Lincoln County’s participating taxidermists are Brent Opdyke, Allen Morgan and George Wilson and their information can be found on the MDWFP CWD page.