Alabama wildlife officials monitor potential for sick deer this hunting season

National

An earlier version of this story contained incorrect information about the impact of eating venison from deer with chronic wasting disease. The CDC says there is no strong evidence for the occurrence of CWD in people, and it is not known if people can get infected with CWD prions. The story has been corrected. We regret the error.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — It’s almost deer hunting season in Alabama and the neighboring state, Mississippi, is seeing an increase in sick deer. The Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries says they are monitoring a potential hemorrhagic disease outbreak among deer in North Alabama.

“Just the last two or three weeks, we’ve started getting calls of people either finding sick deer that are emaciated or recently deceased deer that were emaciated…. Or getting pictures of their game cameras. Everybody has their cameras out getting ready for hunting season.” Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Deer Program Coordinator, Chris Cook.

Hemorrhagic disease is caused by a virus and is transmitted by tiny biting insects. Deer Program Coordinator Chris cook says the virus itself rarely kills deer in the deep south, but the virus does causes internal hemorrhaging and hurts the deer’s ability to eat and digest food.

“It affects the soft tissues, they often get ulcers on their tongue or throat. It can cause the stomach lining to slough off and make it difficult for deer to eat or digest food so that’s where you get these deer that are progressively looking weight,” says Cook.

There are signs hunters can use to tell if a deer has suffered through hemorrhagic disease including ulcers on tongues and sloughing hooves.

“All four of their hooves might appear to be coming off or sloughing off… where the virus interrupted the growth of their hooves and the new one starts growing and pushes off the old hoof,” says Cook.

Hemorrhagic Disease is more common in some years and usually follows a three to five-year cycle.
Cook says the state is more concerned about chronic wasting disease in deer. While there have been no connections between humans eating venison from deer that have CWD to human illnesses, the CDC strongly encourages people to have deer from areas where CWD is known to occur be tested before eating the meat.

Alabama has no reported cases of CWD so far, but it’s something the state continues to monitor.

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