A Fatal Deer Disease Is Getting Closer to Maine. Here's What Hunters Need to Know

By Holyoke, John | Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME), October 11, 2018 | Go to article overview

A Fatal Deer Disease Is Getting Closer to Maine. Here's What Hunters Need to Know


Holyoke, John, Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME)


For more than 20 years, deer biologists across the Northeast have kept a wary eye to the west as chronic wasting disease was found in deer in several states. Late this summer, the disease was found in a single deer at a Quebec deer farm just north of Montreal, again raising the threat that the disease might show up here in Maine for the first time.

"Prior to the detection in Quebec, we've been more focused on monitoring [the situation] here in Maine and making sure we would find it if it did crop up here in Maine," said Nathan Bieber, the deer biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. "But now that it's popped up in Quebec we're more concerned with response rather than just monitoring."

Bieber said the wildlife department is considering appropriate responses should the disease make its way to Maine, but stressed that the disease has not been found here. It has not been found in New Hampshire or Vermont, either, but a few cases were identified in New York state more than a decade ago; wildlife officials in that state say the disease was eradicated and has not been found in the deer herd since.

Chronic wasting disease is spread by a protein called a prion. It's similar to mad cow disease in cattle, scrapies in sheep and Jakob-Creutzfeldt Disease in humans.

"It's 100 percent fatal for deer. We can't cure it. We can't vaccinate against it. If a deer gets it, it will die from it," Bieber said.

Maine's wildlife department has a page on its website devoted to chronic wasting disease and its prevention. Among the rules in place: Maine prohibits the transportation of unprocessed deer carcasses into the state from other states that are not immediately adjacent to Maine. That rule also states that carcasses from New Hampshire and some Canadian provinces -- including Quebec -- are exempt from the rule.

Bieber said an effort to remove Quebec from the list of exempt provinces is under way.

[New England biologists seek to prevent arrival of deer disease]

Judy Camuso, the department's wildlife director, said the commissioner's advisory council will be addressing the matter Thursday. …

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