BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A disease that has been killing deer across the country for more than 50 years is posing a serious threat to Louisiana wildlife. Because of that, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Department (LAWLF) is putting limits on what hunters can bring into the state.
You are likely to see more deer roam freely now that hunters have lowered their aim for the spring. But experts with LAWLF want everyone to pay extra attention to the four-legged prey, even in the off season. Deer Program Manager and biologist Johnathan Bordelon said Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a deadly disease in deer, is spreading.
"This is the most serious disease affecting not only white tail deer, but others across the country," Bordelon said.
CWD is a neurological disorder that comes from a misfolding protein. Bordelon said it leads to holes in the brain. Eventually the animal loses its appetite and its bodily functions, then dies. He said it is contagious to not just other animals, but also the environment.
"The disease can persist in the absence of a host. Once it becomes part of the environment, by bonding to salt particles, the environment itself can be a source for infection," Bordelon said.
CWD was first diagnosed in 1967 at a research facility in Colorado. Bordelon said it has since spread to 24 states. The most recent, Texas and Arkansas. Bordelon said because of that, the state is limiting what out-of-state hunters can bring into Louisiana.
The new regulation states hunters cannot bring in entire deer carcasses or any part of the central nervous system, basically the brain and the spinal column.
"They'll still be able to travel back with the deboned meat, packaged meat, quarters. They'll be able to bring in the capes or the hides of the animal along with the skull cap and antlers, and they can come in with finished taxidermy products," Bordelon said.
Bordelon said none of the 8,000 Louisiana deer it examined tested positive for CWD, but the threat here is real and not just for deer.
"It could also have impact to the hunting industry, land values. It can also have an impact on hunter recruitment and retention," Bordelon said.
The new regulations went into effect on March 1, 2017. Failure to comply could lead to seizure of the animal and fines.
There is no link between CWD and human sickness, but the Centers for Disease Control recommends that humans do not consume any animal that has tested positive for it.
For more information on Chronic Wasting Disease, click here.