HUNTING

Outdoor Corner: CWD Strikes Louisiana Deer Population

Lyle Johnson

After years and years of a long, valiant effort by hunter and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, CWD, or Chronic Wasting Disease, has struck our state’s deer herd in North Louisiana in Tensas Parish.

At the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting last week, members learned more about the suspected and now confirmed case of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in a deer harvested in Tensas Parish.

A hunter recognized the older buck disoriented and in poor condition similar to symptoms exhibited when infected with CWD. Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries biologists took samples and obtained final results that this buck is CWD positive.

This is what a deer looks like in the last stages of Chronic Wasting Disease.

In 2022 Louisiana became the 28th state to detect CWD in its deer herd. The battle to keep our herd CWD free was intense, because the disease was previously detected in the neighboring states of Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi. Louisiana was an island surrounded by it on three sides.

One of the problems is that CWD is a disease that effects cervids, and it can take up to a year for the disease to be detected. It is a neurodegenerative disease found in most deer species, including white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, red deer, moose, and caribou. It is infectious, always fatal, and has no known treatment.

It’s part of a group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) and is similar to BSE (which we know as mad cow disease) in cattle and scrapie in sheep.

These diseases cause irreversible damage to brain tissue, which leads to salivation, neurological symptoms, emaciation, and death of the animal. Some of the symptoms include dramatic weight loss, stumbling, and an array of other neurologic symptoms. CWD essentially erodes their brain tissue and nerve cells.

CWD is caused by prions, which are proteins normally found in the body that have mutated. These prions accumulate in the brain and cause holes to develop in brain tissue. While prions are concentrated in the central nervous system, they can be found within other tissues of the infected animal, including muscle.  

The other problem and why it is very important to isolate the areas is that it’s spread through direct deer-to-deer contact or through contact with urine, feces, saliva, and body parts of infected deer or infectious materials in the soil.

Prions will bind to soil particles once an infected deer carcass has decomposed. Once in a location, the disease is present indefinitely. So that means that if an infected deer dies and naturally decomposes into the earth, that soil will always remain infected. When vegetation naturally grows there and is ingested by a deer, it will get infected.

There are currently no vaccines or treatments for this disease. CWD brings many concerns including dwindling deer populations, hunter discouragement, and economic impact of deer hunting in Louisiana. 

Another important concern is the possibility of a CWD-infected cervid meat being potentially harmful to humans. We need more research and better testing although CWD has not been shown to be contagious to humans. However, the CDC, USDA, and WHO discourage human consumption of CWD infected animals.

Because CWD has been discovered in Louisiana, LDWF has created a management zone. In accordance with a Declaration of Emergency order by the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission (LWFC), is imposing a feeding and carcass export ban on deer in Tensas, Franklin and Madison parishes.

The ban is in response to an adult buck harvested in Tensas Parish being diagnosed with chronic wasting disease (CWD), which is always fatal to deer. The carcass export ban is effective immediately and the feeding ban went into effect Monday.

This Declaration will remain in effect for the maximum period allowed under the Administrative Procedure Act or until rescinded or modified by the Secretary.

“This is the best option that we have at this time,” said LDWF Secretary Jack Montoucet. “We will provide updates on our response in the coming months.”

This is what this order means: All supplemental feeding, including mineral or salt licks, is prohibited in Tensas, Franklin and Madison parishes. The purpose of this feeding ban is to reduce the potential for the spread of CWD in Louisiana by reducing the risk of exposure when deer are concentrated around feeding sites. 

The use of approved bait not normally ingested by deer for feral hog trapping will be allowed. All bait must be placed and contained within the trap itself. Backyard bird feeders are also exempt from this supplemental feeding prohibition.

The export of cervid carcasses or part of a cervid carcass originating within Tensas Franklin and Madison parishes is prohibited, except for meat that is cut and wrapped; meat that has been boned out; quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached, antlers, clean skull plates with antlers, cleaned skulls without tissue attached, capes, tanned hides, finished taxidermy mounts and cleaned cervid teeth.

A big shout out goes to Representatives Scalise, Carter, Graves, Johnson, and Letlow for voting for the bi-partisan Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act that would fund research on detecting and managing the spread of the disease along with funding state and Tribal efforts to stem the spread.

Twebty-nine degrees was the air temperature when the 51 boats left the launch at Doiron’s Landing in Stephensville for the 12th annual Fishing for Tucker Bass Classic. But the cold temperatures didn’t phase many of the angler teams or the fish, for that matter.

Alex Heintze, right, and Connor Rushing with their five-bass, 17.55-pound stringer.

Thirty-five of the 51 boats brought bass to the scales on a blue bird, first day after the cold front competition. Alex Heintze and Connor Rushing lead the way by bringing a five-bass, 17.55-pound stringer to the scales for first place and a $1,000 payday.

Jacob Pourciau and Blake Caruso with their five bass hitting the scales at 15.80 pounds, including with the big bass of the day, weighing 6.07 pounds.

In second place was the team of Jacob Pourciau and Blake Caruso with five bass hitting the scales at 15.80 pounds, along with the big bass of the day weighing 6.07 pounds. Ross Roper and Garrett Strickland took third place with five bass at 15.72 pounds. Shane Carmouche and Dylan Becnel finished fourth with five bass at 15.53 pounds, and Thomas McCrystal and Danny Aucoin rounded out the top five with five bass at 15.32 pounds.

Sixth place Corey Wheat and David Cavell had five bass at 15.25 pounds; seventh place was Joe Paille and Leavitt Hamilton with five bass at 14.70 pounds; eighth place was Seth Comeaux and Levi Louviere, five bass at 13.12 pounds; ninth place went to Joey Decuir and Mark Sylvester, five bass at 12.97 pounds; 10th place was Brennon Middleton and Jason Beck, with five bass at 12.93 pounds.

A big shout-out to all the sponsors and Anything Outdoors for preparing the jambalaya and pastalaya. Another great tournament in the books. So until next time, remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. Have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God truly bless you!

Outdoor Calendar

  • East Ascension Sportsman’s League Meeting: 7 p.m. third Monday each month in the meeting room upstairs at Cabela’s. Supper will be served. warrenh3@eatel.net 
  • Krewe of Diversion St Jude Boat Parade; Noon Feb. 19, leaving the bridge over Diversion travelling to Manny’s on the Amite River. Grand Marshal Rep. Clay Schexnayder. Contact David (225 939-2135) or Vivian Stevens (225 324-5659) for details.
  • Ducks Unlimited Banquet: 5 to 9 p.m. March 5 at Cabela’s. Firearm frenzy raffle for 50 guns. Purchase tickets at dufrenzy.com, any purchase gets you ticket entry includes food, beer, wine and a DU membership.

Need an event publicized? Contact Lyle at reelman@eatel.net