Hunters sizing up CWD precaution restrictions

No chronic wasting disease case has even been identified in a deer in Kentucky, but a recent Tennessee deer made it uncomfortably nearby.

Kentucky deer hunters in five area counties are still figuring how new restrictions associated with a CWD Surveillance Zone will affect them.

That zone is an area of heightened vigilance for chronic wasting disease, a fatal brain disease that affects deer and other deer family critters. No case of CWD, for short, has even been identified in a deer within Kentucky, although many states, including states around Kentucky’s border, have diagnosed CWD in deer there.

Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources managers have been anticipating the spread of CWD for years, regulating against the unwitting import of the neurological condition by such as restrictions on hunters bringing in the carcasses of deer from CWD-positive states.

A plan in development for 20 years that would kick into effect if CWD were to show up in close proximity to Kentucky’s borders, and just that has happened. In Tennessee, a gaunt, obviously sick whitetail doe taken 7.8 miles from the Kentucky border south of Murray recently tested positive for CWD.

Tennessee already has identified CWD-positive deer in the southwestern part of that state, but the recent deer from Humphreys County represented the northernmost case of the disease seen in that state — and it was by far the closest yet to Kentucky.

Kentucky wildlife managers’ CWD monitoring plan calls for the establishment of a surveillance zone if a deer positive for the disease is identified within 15 miles of the border in another state. This Tennessee deer easily triggered that alert.

The zone is based on a 30-mile radius from the source of the ailing deer. That 30-mile circle takes in part of Calloway, Marshall, Graves, Fulton and Hickman counties, but as a matter of convenience in regulation, the entirety of each of those counties becomes the CWD Surveillance Zone.

Restrictions within the five-county zone which immediately go into effect include the prohibition of baiting for deer during hunting seasons as well as the prohibition of feeding wildlife with grain or any goodies such as salt or mineral blocks. (Legitimate agricultural practices and planted food plots are allowed as are hanging bird feeders in the yards of residences.)

Within the zone, deer taken during the modern firearms season and the two (October and December) muzzleloading firearms seasons must be checked in at designated check stations. These check stations are yet set, but KDFWR sources say two to four check stations in each of the five counties will be established.

During a recent Kentucky Fish & Wildlife Commission meeting, a list of seasons during which in-zone check stations would be active was shortened. Kentucky’s early October youth gun season and the free youth deer season after Christmas were freed of that obligation because of the relative low numbers of deer harvested during those hunts.

A regulation that will affect many successful hunters in the surveillance zone is that no entire deer carcass can be removed from the zone. A whole deer harvested in any of the five counties can be transported only within the zone.

Because CWD is caused by abnormal proteins known as prions that are associated with deer brains, spinal cord material and lymph glands, any deer taken from the surveillance zone must be reduced to meat that has been boned out from the carcass. Antlers can be brought out on cleaned skull caps, but no brain material and certainly no whole heads are allowed.

Any deer taken in the surveillance zone, including archery and crossbow deer outside of gun seasons, must be tagged before being removed from the field. Hunter-made tags (think 3”x5” index cards) should list the hunter’s name, address and phone number, sex of the deer, date and county in which taken, and the Telecheck confirmation number. Thus, Telechecking should be done before moving the carcass.

Hunters should remember that these precautions are about monitoring for CWD. No cases have been seen in Kentucky. The disease has merely shown itself to be uncomfortably close.

Then, too, the presence of CWD doesn’t necessarily mean gloom and doom. Deer hunting goes on in CWD-positive states. To date, there are no instances of people being infected with CWD, and the disease has been known in the deer family for decades.

Precautions are warranted, however, because there is still much unknown about the disease, and at the least it can have a negative effect on the deer population. The Centers For Disease Control recommends that people not eat venison from deer that test positive for CWD, so the presence of the disease could be a discouraging factor for hunters.

The KDFWR website, www.fw.ky.gov, has a wealth of information about CWD including details of the currently in force monitoring plan and the surveillance zone and locations where and how hunters can take deer to be tested. One section includes FAQ, frequently asked questions, which are pertinent to many hunters’ concerns.

Go to the website and click on “Alerts” and the CWD related information there. Various links are available to cover a wide range of information.

•••

Kentucky’s early wood duck hunting has come and gone, ending this past Wednesday, but some early and non-traditional waterfowling continues.

A remnant of the wood duck and teal season, the state’s teal-only hunting runs through this weekend. The season for taking early migrating blue-winged, green-winged and/or cinnamon teal started last Saturday along with the five-day season for local-nesting woodies. Teal-only hunting has continued since Thursday and runs through Sunday.

Meanwhile, Kentucky’s early Canada goose hunting season, which opened Sept. 16, continues as it runs through Sept. 30. That makes the last early goose hunting session Thursday of next week.

During this weekend, Kentucky waterfowlers can take as many as 6 teal daily. (And again, the early wood duck season is closed, and no more woodies can be harvested.) The early goose season, which targets non-migratory, Kentucky-nesting bird, allows the taking of as many 5 Canada geese per day. The possession limit is 15 after three or more days of hunting.

•••

More Kentucky hunting seasons for both furred and feathered species come in with the advent of October, which arrives on Friday of next week.

Oct. 1 brings Kentucky’s first raccoon and opossum hunting season. This season for these two abundant furbearer species is apart from the general furbearer season that permits both hunting and trapping for a variety of furry critters. That season opens as has become traditional on the first Monday after the initial weekend of firearms deer hunting, this year being Nov. 15.

Also opening Friday, Oct. 1, is Kentucky’s crossbow season for wild turkeys. This season, the first of two crossbow turkey sessions, runs through Oct. 17. The latter crossbow turkey season is Nov. 13-Dec. 31.

Meanwhile, turkeys as well as deer can be taken with archery gear throughout Kentucky’s Sept. 4-Jan. 17 regular archery hunting season.

Steve Vantreese, a freelance outdoors writer, can be contacted at outdoors@paducahsun.com.

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