Archived Outdoors

First CWD-positive deer found in N.C.

The first case of chronic wasting disease, a fatal affliction affecting cervids like deer and elk, has been detected in North Carolina. 

A sample collected from a deer harvested in northern Yadkin County in December 2021 has tested positive for CWD. A taxidermist sent in the sample through a cooperator program the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission set up. The agency ramped up testing this season after a CWD-positive deer was discovered 33 miles away from the North Carolina border last year, collecting more than 7,200 samples. 

Because the Wildlife Commission is still receiving results from the past season’s testing, additional positive tests could be forthcoming. So far, results have been received from 60% of samples submitted, and from 76% of the four-county focal area — Alleghany, Surry, Stokes and Rockingham counties — initiated because of the 2021 Virginia CWD-positive deer.  

The agency has a CWD Response Plan in place and will continue to share next steps. Continued testing is imperative because it’s nearly impossible to tell if an animal has CWD by observing it. A deer can be infected for as long as 16 months before showing signs of illness, and there is no vaccine, treatment or cure for the disease — making CWD a looming threat to the state’s deer population and hunting traditions, as well as to its newly established elk population should the disease spread westward. 

 CWD is caused by abnormal proteins, called prions, that slowly spread through a cervid’s nervous system, eventually causing spongy holes in the brain that lead to death. The disease is spread between animals through direct contact and environmental contamination from infected saliva, urine and feces of live animals or carcasses and body parts. 

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