Department of Wildlife Resources Hosts Chronic Disease Information Meetings in New River Valley

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) – The recent discovery of chronic waste disease in a deer that was harvested in Montgomery County is prompting rapid action from the Department of Wildlife Resources. The DWR is hosting a series of information meetings on chronic waste diseases (CWDs) found in part of the New River Valley.

“We wanted to meet the hunters and discuss with them the various changes they can expect this fall in terms of hunting regulations, carcass transport, feed regulations,” said Megan Kirchgessner, a veterinarian. of wildlife, at WDBJ7. “We also wanted to let them know the rationale behind these changes so that they understand why we made them. “

In November 2020, in part of Montgomery County, a deer was shot and was later found to have CWD which affects the brain and spinal cord.

Map from the Department of Wildlife Resources showing where deer with chronic waste disease was harvested and surrounding areas affected.(Department of Wildlife)

“These neurological signs can include loss of fear of humans or pets, confusion, drool,” Kirchgessner told the audience at Tuesday night’s meeting. “These animals will stand with drooping heads, drooping ears. Sometimes they will have a hard time keeping their balance.

This disease is fatal and easily spreads to other animals like moose and elk, so the Department of Wildlife is wasting no time dealing with the situation.

“Things are going to be different for landowners and hunters this fall,” Kirchgessner said.

As of today for Montgomery, Floyd and Pulaski counties, you are not authorized to rehabilitate white-tailed deer fawn; and the transport of whole deer carcasses and any part containing brain tissue or spinal cord outside the area is restricted.

There is also a year-round deer feed ban in most counties and towns in southwest Virginia.

“They said outright not to do it. It’s literally illegal now, ”Blacksburg hunter Paul Spaulding told WDBJ7. “So 99.9% of the hunters that go out there and follow the regulations, and I’ll be one of those, and I won’t kick them out.”

“You have to make a commitment,” Kirchgessner said. “You’re not going to see the changes spread or the prevalence rates in 2-3 years. You are really going to have to commit to a decade of monitoring to see if this management action will be effective.

The DWR hopes to test hundreds of deer for CWD this year to help determine how the disease may have spread and how to prevent it from spreading further.

One of the most important changes concerns the hunting season.

“Starting this fall, we improved our hunting opportunities in the disease management zone by increasing the regular gun season in Montgomery and Pulaski from two weeks to four weeks. And we will have general opportunities without firearm wood in September, and then in January, February and March. “

This will allow the DWR to test more deer for CWD in order to make more informed decisions, as well as reduce the deer population to mitigate the spread of the disease.

However, it is not only with hunters that the DWR must partner, but also with landowners.

“It is especially critical when CWD is detected in a population that we need to have opportunities for hunters to access land and harvest deer,” Kirchgessner said.

“A lot of the reasons we have too many deer are because we don’t have enough access,” Spaulding said. “So if the landowners give the hunters better access, we can control the population a little better and a lot of diseases like this will be brought under control.”

On Wednesday, August 25, there will be another meeting from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Floyd County High School auditorium.

Then there will be a third meeting in Pulaski County on September 15th.

For more information on Chronic Waste Diseases from the Department of Wildlife, click here.

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