Chronic Wasting Disease

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Chronic Wasting Disease Prevention

By Dylan Ferreira, Senior Wildlife Biologist, RI DEM

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a fatal neurological disease affecting cervids (deer, elk, moose and reindeer) caused by an abnormal form of cellular protein known as a prion. CWD is transmitted by direct animal-to-animal contact and by contact with saliva, feces, urine, and carcass parts (brain, spinal cord, lymph nodes, tonsils and spleen). Prions are very persistent in the environment and can be spread through contaminated soil and vegetation. When CWD infects an area, it is extremely expensive and difficult to manage, and nearly impossible to eradicate. There are no vaccines for CWD and there are limited methods of managing the disease once an area is infected.

The introduction of CWD into Rhode Island would have significant impacts on the deer population and could change deer hunting as we now know it. As a result, the Rhode Island DEM, Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) continues to work proactively to keep this disease out of the state. In addition to annual monitoring efforts on hunter-harvested, road killed and reported sick deer, the DFW also has specific regulations pertaining to the feeding/baiting, importation, and possession of specific carcass parts and live cervids, particularly from CWD-endemic areas. These regulations can be found at http://www.dem.ri.gov/pubs/regs/regs/fishwild/cervid.pdf.

Research also indicates that there is potential for prions to be spread using natural deer urine lures/scents. Starting in 2018, the use or possession of these products is prohibited as an additional precautionary measure to further minimize the potential for CWD to be introduced into Rhode Island. The new regulation reads as follows: “The use or possession of deer scents/lures that contain natural cervid (including deer, moose, elk) urine, gland oil, feces, tissue, blood or any other bodily fluids while taking, attempting to take, attracting, or scouting wildlife is prohibited.”

Knowing and following the existing regulations, as well as the helpful tips provided below, is the best way for you to help keep Rhode Island CWD-free.

Report all sick deer to the RI DEM Environmental Police @ 401-222-3070.

Facts and Helpful Tips to Keep Rhode Island CWD-Free

  • There is no cure or vaccine for CWD.
  • CWD would negatively impact Rhode Island’s deer herd and hunters.
  • CWD is spread by: animal to animal contact, saliva, feces, urine, contaminated soil, and carcass parts.
  • Burning or chemical treatment will not destroy CWD.
  • Do not use natural deer urine lures (It is illegal!). Instead, use (synthetic) products that do not contain cervid parts.
  • Do not feed/attract/bait deer (It is illegal!).
  • Dispose of deer carcasses by double bagging them and bringing them to a landfill. Do not throw them in the woods.
  • Do not import potentially CWD infectious materials from CWD-endemic areas (It is illegal!).
  • Permitted carcass parts: Deboned meat, hide or cape, skull cap with antlers-free of blood and brain matter, antlers, finished taxidermy, tanned hide, a fresh head and cape only after certified CWD free from a USDA Lab.