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Ky. Responds To Chronic Wasting Disease In Deer Near Border

Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources

Kentucky’s Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources has established new restrictions for five counties following the discovery of a deer with chronic wasting disease in Tennessee. 

Last week Tennessee officials confirmed the incurable brain disease in a white-tailed deer just a few miles from the Kentucky border. 

Chronic wasting disease (CWD), is a neurological disease that affects deer, elk and other cervids making them appear listless, stumbling and withered. CWD has never been reported in humans, but is always fatal for animals.

The disease affects animals’ brain, spinal cord and tissues. Huntershave to think twice before eating meat harvested from deer and elk in areas with reported cases of CWD. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Resources advises hunters to never harvest or handle any animals that appear sick or unhealthy. 

CWD was first identified in captive deer in Colorado in the 1960s and has since spread to at least 26 states. The disease is already present in six of the seven states that border Kentucky. Last week Tennessee officials found a deer with the disease about eight miles from Kentucky’s border. 

As a result, Kentucky’s Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources has established a surveillance zone and new restrictions for five counties including Calloway, Fulton, Graves, Hickman and Marshall counties

“We have not found chronic wasting disease in Kentucky, but this, [is] because of its proximity to Kentucky, but this effort is a heightened response and set of restrictions to ensure that we are adequately monitoring for it,” said deputy commissioner Brian Clark with Kentucky’s Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

The new restrictions limit the transportation of harvested deer, prohibit most baiting and feeding of wildlife, and requires all hunters present their carcasses, or the full heads of the deer, for sample collection. 

Commissioner Rich Storm said the state has tested more than 32,000 deer for CWD in the last two decades and has not yet found a case, but now more than ever, hunters and landowners need to bolster the state's efforts in disease monitoring. 

“My actions are guided by the sound science reflected in our response plan and align with the agency’s mission. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife is meeting this challenge head-on,” Storm said. “Hunters and landowners played a key role in our restoration of deer decades ago, and today they are going to be vital to our disease monitoring efforts in these five counties. We appreciate their continued cooperation and support as we together conserve our deer herd into the future.”

Reports of CWD can be submitted by email (Info.Center@ky.gov) or a toll-free number weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. eastern at 1-800-858-1549.

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.

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