Whitetail Deer in Alabama Confirmed Positive for Chronic Wasting Disease

by Matthew Memrick
(Photo by: ARTERRA/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Alabama officials said one hunter’s whitetail deer prize has Chronic Wasting Disease, making it the state’s first confirmed case.

While officials have enacted a plan to combat the spread, the Yellowhammer State joins 27 other states and three Canadian provinces to claim cases of the disease. Since 1981, this plague has spread across the nation.

Outdoor Life reported on the Jan. 7 announcement, saying Alabama knew something like this would happen since it’s so close to Mississippi and Tennessee. Officials have been dealing with outbreaks in those states since 2018.

The website reported the disease in eight western Tennessee counties and seven northern Mississippi counties.

CWD ‘The Mad Cow Disease Of Deer’

Alabama officials knew this day would come, and the confirmation came out of an Iowa laboratory when a Lauderdale County hunter’s deer tested positive. The hunter had bagged the deer earlier in the season.

Deer, elk, and moose are the primary Chronic Wasting Disease victims, as the fatal neurological disease is highly contagious. Think of it as the mad cow disease for these particular animals.

Biologists and conservation groups call it public enemy no. 1 for these particular animals in North America. There are no treatments or vaccines yet. 

Are humans at risk? There are mixed signs on that front. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, there’s no evidence of CWD jumping into humans. That’s a good sign for now, but go deeper into the in-vitro studies of animal-to-human transmissions

Hunters Standing Up to CWD

The positive test came when a hunter voluntarily submitted a tissue sample to the state’s surveillance and testing program before the positive confirmation. 

Chris Blankenship, the Commissioner of the ADCNR, credited the hunter in the fight against Chronic Wasting Disease and asked hunters to keep up their vigilance.

“I would like to thank the hunters for their voluntary assistance in providing samples for CWD testing, and we need hunters now more than ever,” Blankenship said in a press release. “We take the presence of this disease very seriously.”

Alabama Keeping Track Of Disease In Zones

Two Alabama counties (Lauderdale and Colbert) are now in a management zone plan, with one Lauderdale part getting a high-risk designation. Other parts of those counties will serve as a buffer zone.

Deer hunters need to take note of some new regulations as a result. The ADCNR now said there are no daily bag and antler limits for the rest of the 2022 season. The open season decree means Alabama hunters can get all the whitetail deer they want. Hunters can go on private and public land in those two counties through Feb. 10. 

However, hunters have to turn in their deer heads for CWD testing in those areas (buffer and high-risk). Also, deer remains must stay in those areas and get proper disposal.

“Deboned meat, clean skull plates and raw hides with no visible brain or spinal cord tissue may be taken outside of these zones,” according to the ADCNR.

There’s no time period on these regulations, but more testing can keep the disease from spreading.