HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Alabama has kept a neurological disease that kills deer out of the state for decades. Yet, Chronic Wasting Disease is prevalent in Alabama's neighboring states of Tennessee and Mississippi.
The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division is working to keep the disease out of the deer populations, but it is a very difficult task. It can take up to two years for deer to show symptoms of the disease and the animal must be dead in order for testing to be done.
This means hunters play a huge role in the agency's ability to do testing. Maryanne Hudson, a Conservation Outreach Specialist for the division says "We rely on hunters to help us get these samples and we also test road kill and sick deer that are reported to us."
Hunters who want to aid in the research can bring the deer heads to a drop off location. "We now have drop-off freezers where hunters can deposit their deer heads to be tested for Chronic Wasting Disease, " Hudson said.
Hunters will be notified of their test results by email within 3-4 weeks after testing.
There is not a lot that wildlife agencies can do to prevent infected deer from migrating into the state. The disease 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. Hunters are not allowed to bring in entire deer carcasses from other states or countries because of the risk of spreading the disease.
"The Alabama Wildlife and Fisheries Division is vigilant and has been continuously testing deer for over a decade and so we will continue to monitor Alabama's deer herd in the interest of everyone," Hudson said.
The hope is that Chronic Wasting Disease will never make its way into Alabama borders.
Though it has not been found in Alabama there are a lot of questions about CWD.
On Tuesday, February 12, at 6 p.m. there will be a Chronic Wasting Disease seminar in Florence at North Alabama Hospital.