Chronic wasting disease affects hoofed ruminant animals such as whitetail and mule deer, moose and elk. Its mention triggers serious concerns for wildlife professionals, owners of captive cervids and outdoor enthusiasts.
Chronic wasting disease, first identified in captive mule deer in Colorado in the late 1960s and in the wild in 1981, has now been confirmed in Ohio.
The disease is believed to be caused by a prion, an abnormal form of a normal protein commonly found in the central nervous system. The disease is capable of spreading to the nervous system, which can infect the muscle tissue of the animal.
Most cases of chronic wasting disease occur in adult animals, are progressive and always fatal. Clinical signs include weight loss, decreased interactions with other animals, listlessness, lowering of the head, blank facial expression, repetitive walking in set patterns and a smell similar to rotting meat.
Excessive salivation, grinding teeth and increased drinking and urination have also been observed.
Infected deer may allow unusually close approach by humans or natural predators.
Transmission is thought to be from animal to animal. Research indicates that an infected deer’s saliva and other excretions can spread the disease.
Infection can then occur when other animals eat grass growing in contaminated soil. Maternal transmission may occur, although it appears unimportant in maintaining epidemics.
The Ohio Division of Wildlife has confirmed the first case in a captive deer herd near Millersburg, Holmes County. The farm has been quarantined in an attempt to control further spread of the disease.
There’s no evidence that chronic wasting disease has affected Ohio’s wild deer herd.
The preserve had been under quarantine since April 24 and was subject to intensive monitoring and sampling because of a connection to a deer operation in Pennsylvania that tested positive for chronic wasting disease earlier this year. The quarantine will continue until authorities are satisfied that disease transference can no longer occur.
Since April 15, the state has quarantined 43 captive deer operations for receiving approximately 125 deer from the same Pennsylvania operation. Of those outfits, 22 have been given an all clear after extensive testing, but 21, including five hunting preserves, remain locked down. The quarantine includes one Hardin County operation.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no evidence that chronic wasting disease can be transmitted to humans.
Regardless, it doesn’t recommend that people nor animals eat any part of a deer diagnosed with or showing signs of chronic wasting disease.
“We have no reason to believe that there has been transference to the state’s wild deer population,” said Scott Zody, chief of the Division of Wildlife.
“With hunting season in progress, there are no CWD concerns that should prevent anyone from enjoying wild deer hunting in Ohio or from consuming meat from healthy animals.”
Wildlife professionals recommend that hunters take standard precautions, shooting only animals that appear healthy, wearing rubber gloves when field-dressing, and washing when finished. If a suspect deer is observed, the local wildlife officer should be notified.
Along the Way:
The Pheasants Forever Bing Beal Memorial Youth Hunt was held last weekend and created a scrapbook of memories for 50 young participants.
Many thanks to the Beal family, dogs, handlers and to the businesses: Broken Bird Gun Club, Oler’s Bar and Grill, Buffalo Trading Company, TNT Firearms, Jaqua’s Fine Guns, Fort Findlay Coffee, LaRiche Toyota, Bluffton Aeration, Betts Archery, Bluffton Veterinary Hospital, and “Outdoor Ohio” with Casey Allen.
Step Outside:
• Hunter education courses: Nov. 10-12: Fostoria United Sportsman Club, Fostoria; Nov. 18-19: Carey Conservation Club, Carey; For information, visit
• Today-tomorrow: Tri-State Gun Collectors Show, Allen County Fairgrounds.
• Today-tomorrow: Youth-only small-game season.
• Tomorrow: Trap shoot, 1 p.m. Mount Blanchard Gun Club, 21655 Delaware Township 186.
Abrams is a retired wildlife officer supervisor for the state Division of Wildlife in Findlay. He can be reached at P.O. Box 413, Mount Blanchard, OH 45867-0413 or via email at