The discovery of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in a deer found dead in Mississippi has Georgia WRD officials fine-tuning its response plan should the deadly disease be found here.
State Deer Biologist Charlie Killmaster said the state is updating its CWD Response Plan with any new research information gathered from states that have CWD.
“The discovery of CWD in Mississippi hasn’t necessarily changed anything, but any time CWD takes another step closer to Georgia, it raises concerns if our response plan is up to date with all the new research. We learn something from states that have CWD every year. Our response plan is a living document that is constantly changing,” said Killmaster.
Killmaster says it has been decided that Georgia will for the first time ever make its CWD Response Plan available to the public.
“We’re really getting it cleaned up before we put it out to the public,” he said. “It should be ready in the next several months, probably by mid-summer.”
The fact that CWD has always been several states away has never made him feel complacent, Killmaster said.
“I’m neck-deep in it all the time,” he said. “I’m in frequent touch with counterparts in other states that have CWD. I’ see what they are going through with all their issues. My level of concern over CWD has been high from the get-go.”
Currently, Georgia samples approximately 300 deer annually for CWD. Since there is no test on live animals for the disease, the state tests road-kills and deer provided by hunters.
“We sample year-round with the primary source being road-kills,” Killmaster said. “Deer that have CWD are more susceptible to get hit by cars, even before the symptoms appear.”
The Alabama Department of Agriculture recently unveiled a new $30,000 machine that allows that agency to test for CWD in its own laboratory. Prior to that, the state agency was forced to send its samples to an outside source for testing, a process that took anywhere from two to four weeks to get results.
The new machine will test up to 90 samples at once with results being available in as little as two to three days.
“We ship samples to different labs,” Killmaster said. “We’re using a lab in Wisonsin this year.”
Killmaster said a CWD deer being found in Mississippi—just two states over—is worrisome, but he said what happened in Arkansas is much scarier.
“What happened in Arkansas with CWD is much scarier because it was apparently in that state a long time before it was detected,” he said. “They apparently just never tested the right deer. Within a year of it being detected there, they identified 200-plus deer with CWD. That is more than West Virginia has, and West Virginia has had CWD since 2005.”