The big game starts in Ohio and ends with deer. Hence, what affects the state’s whitetail is very important among hunters.
When two cases of chronic wasting disease (CWD) were discovered during the 2020-21 season, there was some hope that the outbreak would be contained.
The discovery of nine infected deer this year in an expanded area that includes northern Marion County threatens those expectations.
“I spoke with someone I respect a lot, and he said the ‘E’ would probably apply to 11 injured deer,” said biologist Mike Tonkowitz, a deer specialist with the Ohio Department of Wildlife. ‘E’ can mean settlement or settlement.
The department intends to continue containment/eradication efforts, but that will be difficult.
Tonkovic explained that in order to find suitable habitats, the little bucks escaping from the ruling bucks would have to travel farther into areas where farmland rather than forests dominate. Movement usually follows streams and rivers, which are often tree-lined and protected in Ohio.
The discovery of several infected deer indicates an increased chance of infection for at least some of the roving animals.
Until the outbreak of CWD in Wyandot County, cases of the disease in Ohio were confined to several locations where deer were bred or kept for fenced hunting. In these cases, the source of the disease can be identified, the herd euthanized and access to infected land restricted.
Running wild deer is an added challenge.
“However, we are optimistic when we can control this at least for a while,” Tonkowicz said.
CWD is caused by a protein known as a prion. Prions cause a slow, painful death by attacking the brain and nervous system.
Research has shown that CWD prions can remain in the soil frequented by deer for years and can be taken up in plants that deer feed on. Because prion is still present, it is not beyond the realm of the potential for disease to be spread by carrion feeders that eat infected remains.
For these reasons, it is unlikely that the source of the CWD outbreak can be traced back to the Kildare Plains, and to slow the spread of CWD, “hunters will have to support us,” Tonkowicz said.
Hunters who take deer into the CWD area during the upcoming hunting season are expected to follow restrictions designed to prevent infected body parts from contaminating uninfected areas. Restrictions can be found in the Fishing Regulations 2022-23 Handbook.
Department staff will also be on hand during a pair of open houses to talk about sampling efforts around the outbreak area. A meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in Upper Sandusky at the Wyandot Country Fairgrounds dining hall, and a second meeting in Marion will take place at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the Marion County Sheriff’s Office inside the Harding room.