UPDATE: State takes extra steps to protect deer, elk against chronic waste disease

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UPDATE POSTED 6:30 P.M. SEPT. 14, 2021

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ/Press Release) – The Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources took action late Monday to enhance protections for the commonwealth’s deer and elk herds and increase monitoring for chronic wasting disease in five western Kentucky counties following the recent detection of the always-fatal brain disease in a wild white-tailed deer in northwestern Tennessee.

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Last week, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency confirmed a 3 ½-year-old female deer from Henry County, Tennessee tested positive for the incurable disease that affects deer, elk, moose and caribou.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) has not been detected in Kentucky but the proximity of Tennessee’s latest detection – just 8 miles from the Kentucky border and less than 20 miles south of Murray, Kentucky – activated Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s CWD Response Plan.

The plan was established almost 20 years ago and has evolved over time with the best available science. The emergency actions by Commissioner Rich Storm are consistent with measures outlined in the department’s response plan and presented to the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission for discussion during a special-called meeting this past Friday.

Citing authorization pursuant to state law (KRS 150.025) and administrative regulation (301 KAR 3:040), Storm authorized the following measures to be effective immediately in the five counties (Calloway, Fulton, Graves, Hickman and Marshall counties) that comprise the CWD Surveillance Zone.

  • Prohibition on baiting and feeding of all wildlife by means of any grain, salt, mineral or other attractants intended to be ingested, except for:
    • Normal agricultural practices, including food plots;
    • Hanging bird feeders within the curtilage of the home; and
    • Furbearer trapping (trappers shall use no grain, salt or mineral)
  • Prohibition on transport of entire deer carcasses, skull contents, spinal columns or bones from deer harvested or slaughtered in the five counties (excluding antlers, antlers attached to a clean skull plate, a clean skull, clean teeth, finished taxidermy work, hide or deboned meat).
  • Persons in possession of or transporting a cervid (deer, elk, moose or caribou) carcass or parts in or through any of these counties must attach to the carcass or parts a clearly visible tag (such as paper, plastic or metal durably attached by wire or string) with the following information legibly displayed for inspection upon request by an official from the department, including:
    • Species and sex of animal
    • County and state of origin
    • Date harvested or obtained
    • Hunter’s name, valid telephone number including area code and telecheck number (or state of origin’s equivalent check-in verification number or information)
  • Hunters who harvest deer in Calloway, Fulton, Graves, Hickman and Marshall counties during the following Kentucky deer hunting seasons, shall present at a Kentucky Fish and Wildlife-authorized check station in one of these counties either the entire carcass of each deer, or the entire head and proof of sex (as established in 301 KAR 2:172) for collection of a CWD sample:
    • Early Muzzleloader Season (two consecutive days starting the third Saturday in October);
    • Modern Gun Season (16 consecutive days starting the second Saturday in November); and
    • Late Muzzleloader Season (nine consecutive days starting the second Saturday in December).
  • Mandatory release (per 301 KAR 2:075 release requirements) of any currently rehabilitated white-tailed deer within the county it is rehabilitated.
  • Prohibition on rehabilitation of white-tailed deer subsequent to issuance of the authorization.

Once locations of department-authorized check stations are finalized, the department will upload the location information to its website (fw.ky.gov). Hunters are encouraged to check the department’s website, CWD webpage (fw.ky.gov/cwd) and social media channels for the latest information.

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife also will attempt to directly communicate with hunters who reside or have in the past five years harvested a deer in the five counties, using the hunters’ contact information. Situations like this highlight the need for hunters and anglers to keep their “My Profile” account information up to date at fw.ky.gov.

The restrictions are intended to remain effective until they are rescinded or superseded by Kentucky Administrative Regulations.

“Kentucky Fish and Wildlife has tested more than 32,000 deer and elk for CWD since 2002. While the disease has not been detected in Kentucky, it’s all but surrounding us now,” Storm said. “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. 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.”

The Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission is scheduled to hold a special called video teleconference meeting at 10 a.m. (EDT) on Wednesday. At that meeting, the commission will discuss possibly recommending the incorporation into KAR 301 KAR 2:172, 2:015, 2:075 and 2:095 restrictions similar to those put into place by Storm. The meeting will be livestreamed on the department’s YouTube channel at youtube.com/FishandWildlifeKY. A link to the livestream will be posted on the department’s homepage at fw.ky.gov at the start of the meeting.

For the latest information on CWD, please visit the department’s CWD webpage (fw.ky.gov/cwd) and follow its social media channels. Additional information about CWD is available at cwd-info.org, through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website and at tn.gov/twra/hunting/cwd.

Hunters can help alert Kentucky Fish and Wildlife of any sick deer or elk. The department advises hunters never to harvest or handle any animals that appear sick or unhealthy.

Reports also can be submitted by phone and email (Info.Center@ky.gov). Kentucky Fish and Wildlife staffs a toll-free number weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Eastern). The number is 1-800-858-1549. In addition to name and contact information, each caller will be asked to provide the following about the observation: county and date, number of deer found, and whether the deer were sick or recently deceased. An online reporting option will be available soon through the department’s website.

Another way hunters can help the department’s efforts to monitor for CWD across the state is by donating the heads of legally harvested and telechecked deer for CWD testing and aging through the statewide Deer Sample Collection Station Program. There is no cost to hunters. Location information, instructions and more information about the program are available at fw.ky.gov/cwd.

ORIGINAL STORY POSTED SEPT. 8, 2021

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ/Press Release) – The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources is taking action to protect and monitor the state’s deer and elk herds after a deer in northwest Tennessee recently tested positive for chronic wasting disease.

The always-fatal neurological disease that affects deer, elk, moose and caribou has not been detected in Kentucky. However, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s response plan calls for implementation of specific measures following a positive detection within 30 miles of Kentucky’s border.

This is because deer are highly mobile, and can range up to several miles in a single day.

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife activated its response plan Wednesday after the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency announced confirmation of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in a 3 ½-year-old female deer collected in Henry County, Tennessee, which is southwest of Murray, Kentucky and approximately 8 miles from the Kentucky-Tennessee border.

The deer was thin and exhibiting strange behavior. Multiple tests confirmed the presence of CWD in the deer.

“While this news may be disheartening for deer hunters, including myself, the good news is the department has had a CWD Response Plan in place since 2002 and is prepared for this day,” Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Rich Storm said. “We are putting our plan into action now and working closely with our many partners on the state and local levels. I have full confidence in our expert team of wildlife professionals.”

Chronic wasting disease has spread to more than half the states in the U.S. since its discovery in the late 1960s in Colorado. The movement of deer is the primary reason for its rapid spread. An infected deer or elk can transmit the disease whether it is alive or dead.

To help prevent spread of CWD into Kentucky, state law prohibits bringing whole carcasses of deer, elk, moose and caribou into the state because of this risk. The brain and spinal column must be removed.

Motorists who see a whole carcass or intact head of one of these species being transported across the state line into Kentucky should report the sighting immediately by calling 1-800-25-ALERT (1-800-252-5378).

Another reporting option is a new online app recently launched by Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. The free KFWLaw app lets people report violations anonymously. It can be downloaded from the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.

Parts allowed into Kentucky from outside its borders include: quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spine or head attached, boned-out meat, antlers, antlers attached to a clean skull plate, a clean skull, clean teeth, hides and finished taxidermy products.

As a result of the disease detection near the Kentucky border, emergency actions per the response plan will be necessary in order for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife to increase surveillance efforts and to protect deer in Calloway, Fulton, Graves, Hickman and Marshall counties.

The Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission plans to meet at 10 a.m. (EDT) on Friday, Sept. 10 to receive a report on the situation and to discuss implementation of the response plan.

The agenda for the special called video teleconference meeting will be posted to the department’s website at fw.ky.gov.

The meeting will be livestreamed on the department’s YouTube channel at youtube.com/FishandWildlifeKY. A link to the livestream will be posted on the department’s homepage at the start of the meeting.

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife hopes that with the continued cooperation of hunters, farmers, taxidermists, processors, and landowners who have supported its monitoring effort, the deer disease will be managed consistent with the best available science.

Hunter involvement is a critical component of the chronic wasting disease response plan.

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife will be providing more information in the coming days that details how hunters can help with this effort.

One way hunters can help is to alert Kentucky Fish and Wildlife of any sick deer or elk. The department advises hunters never to harvest or handle any animals that appear sick or unhealthy.

Reports also can be submitted by phone and email (Info.Center@ky.gov). Kentucky Fish and Wildlife staffs a toll-free number weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Eastern). The number is 1-800-858-1549. In addition to their name and contact information, callers will be asked to provide the following about their observation: county and date, number of deer found, and whether the deer were sick or recently deceased.

An online reporting option will be available soon through the department’s website.

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife has CWD-tested more than 30,000 deer and elk from every county in the state. Hunters contributed the majority of animals for testing.

This year, the department expanded its Deer Sample Collection Station program with locations strategically located to enhance sample collection and statewide data. There are now freezer locations in Calloway, Fulton, Graves, Hickman and Marshall counties.

At any of the locations, hunters can submit the head from a legally harvested and telechecked deer for CWD testing and aging at no charge using bags and sample tags provided, and placing the samples in the freezer provided at each location.

By participating, hunters will learn the age of the harvested deer and help Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s efforts to monitor the health of the state’s deer and elk herds. Results will be available online at https://app.fw.ky.gov/cwdlookup/. If a submitted sample tests positive for CWD, the department will notify the individual.

Information reported to Kentucky Fish and Wildlife through these channels will help the department monitor for the disease.

For the latest information on this disease, please visit the department’s website (fw.ky.gov) and follow its social media channels. More information about CWD is available at fw.ky.gov/cwdcwd-info.org, through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website and at tn.gov/twra/hunting/cwd.