JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - The Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks confirms 19 deer have tested positive for chronic wasting disease in six counties.
The department is also looking to propose new rules for hunters in Mississippi for the upcoming season.
Although no human cases have been reported, Russ Walsh, Executive Wildlife Bureau Director, is still asking hunters to exercise caution when hunting deer.
“There’s been no documented cases of a human contracting chronic wasting disease by eating infected deer meat,” he said.
To battle the spread of chronic wasting disease, the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks is proposing rule changes for the upcoming season.
For public and private land, increasing antler-less bag limits to 5 except for 2 in the southeast region of Mississippi.
On private land they’ll allow one of three buck-bag limit to be any antlered deer.
On wildlife management areas and open public land, MWF will allow antler-less harvest from December 2nd to the 15th with a primitive weapon and only youth can harvest sub criteria antlered deer.
In the Upper Sardis and Holly Springs National Forest they’ll allow antler-less harvesting from October 1st to January 31st.
They’ll also allow one antlered buckd to be sub-criteria for adult hunters.
“One of the three buck bag limit can be any antlered buck. So that’s an effort to allow harvest of yearling bucks which may be the dispensers and they may spread CWD to previously uninfected areas. So we want to allow that harvest of bucks in the underage class," said Walsh.
For any MDWFP-defined CWD Management Zone, it is unlawful to:
· Supplemental feed
· Establish new mineral sites or add supplements to existing sites
· Remove certain portions of cervid carcasses from the zone (carcass regulations) or,
· Trap wild hogs without a permit from MDWFP.
To monitor CWD in the Pontotoc Zone, MDWFP have relied on hunter-harvested deer during the 2018–19 hunting season. Hunters can still submit deer for testing at established drop-off locations or MDWFP-staffed check stations.
According to Walsh, the disease is spread through the saliva of the animals.
"Deer in normal social behavior will interact with one another and spread the disease by a doe licking her fauns, as well as deer coming in and eating at a feeder day-in an day-out. Picking up that feed, dropping that feed out of their mouth, depositing saliva in that feeder, other deer pick up and feed and ingesting the prions and become infected,” explained Walsh.
Another worry for hunters was other animals and how they could become infected. Some hunters were worried about hogs and if they could get infected also. According to MWF, there is currently research going on in Arkansas looking at wild pigs. At this point there is no evidence as to whether or not hogs could be infected, but that study will come out future months.
Hunters in Rankin County like Alex Tucker say they’d like wildlife department to develop test kits for hunters to test potentially infected deer, instead of them dumping the deer in coolers for wildlife officials.
“If our home test kit tested positive we can contact Wildlife Fisheries and Parks. They can take the deer and do a complete test on it, but at least we’d know our meat was safe to process," said Tucker.
Beginning this July there will be a ban on natural deer urine as a way to attract deer. The department says that the urine could also be another way for the disease to spread.