Preventing chronic wasting disease from spreading into Alabama deer population

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Chronic wasting disease is making its way toward Alabama. The contagious and deadly neurological disorder affects members of the deer family.

CWD is a neurological disease. It is infectious and always fatal.

It is spread through proteins that cannot be cleaned away by rain or time. Once an area is contaminated, it will infect deer for years to come.

"It's not like somebody brings their dog to the clinic and we can pull a blood sample and say, 'Hey test this.' We've got thousands of deer out there. We have no idea what they may be harboring," said Sam Eidt, a retired veterinarian.

Eidt was a veterinarian for 48 years. He said the symptoms of CWD can take time to show.

The disease attacks the brain of infected deer and elk, causing them to become emaciated, have abnormal behavior and die. Infected deer may drool, and droop their head, or seem nervous, lost, and have little fear of humans.

CWD has been diagnosed in 25 states, including Mississippi and Tennessee, within miles of the Alabama state line.

"What's to stop the deer from walking across the border? I suspect it is in Alabama and it's going to become more common," said Eidt.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources says no deer in Alabama have tested positive yet, and they want to keep it that way.

The disease can be spread through live deer and deer carcasses. The Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries division now does not allow deer body parts to be brought in from outside Alabama.

De-boned meat, and cleaned skull plates, taxidermy, and tanned hides may be legally brought in.

The Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries will conduct a voluntary CWD sampling Jan. 4-6 in Hackleburg, and Jan. 12-13 in Waterloo.

Hunters may bring in a whole deer, field-dressed deer, or just the head from the harvested animal. Biologists will sample the deer by removing lymph nodes from the head. They say sampling only takes a few minutes.

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