MORGAN COUNTY, Ala. - Wildlife leaders in Alabama have a close eye on the state's deer population. And they're asking for help from hunters to keep out chronic wasting disease.
Mid-October in Alabama means thousands of hunters have their sights set on deer season. Bow season opened on Tuesday. Rifle hunters have about a month to practice.
"We try to grow healthy deer. So, we've had good success," Decatur resident Rodney Harney said.
On Thursday evening, Alabama wildlife experts invited landowners and sportsmen to Wheeler Wildlife Refuge to talk about chronic wasting disease.
"The disease is 100 percent fatal to deer," conservation outreach specialist Marianne Hudson said.
"This is a danger to our sport. And we want to protect our sport," Harney said.
So far, biologists say no infected deer have been found in Alabama. But recent cases found in both Mississippi and Tennessee have the attention of game and fish leaders.
"The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division has been looking for the disease in deer by testing them since 2002," Hudson said.
Wildlife leaders say they hope to test 1,530 deer this fall and winter with cooperation from hunters. So far, there are seven counties that have CWD drop off test sites.
"We do ask those hunters to report any deer that are acting abnormally to us," Hudson said. "And our biologists will make efforts to collect samples from that deer."
2019 is also the first year Alabama has legalized hunting over bait for deer.
"I think it's a bad thing. Chronic wasting disease has been associated with the feeding of deer as long as it's existed," Harney said.
The testing isn't mandatory, but hunters can bring any deer head to their closest wildlife and freshwater fisheries office to be tested, which takes about two weeks.
To find out how to provide a sample, wildlife leaders have provided an information sheet.