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Environment and Outdoors

Maine Announces Emergency Measures After Fatal Deer Disease Discovered In Quebec

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press/file
Deer gather in a field, Wednesday, April 9, 2003, in Patten, Maine.

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (DIF&W) announced emergency rules Thursday that are supposed to protect deer and moose herds from chronic wasting disease, which has been found in 25 states and four Canadian provinces, including a deer herd in Quebec.

“Chronic Wasting Disease is the most serious threat facing our deer and moose populations in modern times,” DIF&W Commissioner Chandler Woodcock said in a press release. “Unchecked, this disease could devastate Maine’s deer and moose populations, and ravage Maine’s hunting and wildlife watching economy.”

Chronic wasting disease, or CWD, is caused by a mutant protein called a prion that results in brain lesions. There is no treatment, vaccine or resistance to the illness, Woodcock says, and it’s always fatal for white-tailed deer, moose and other cervids, such as elk and caribou.

Woodcock says infected animals can shed the prions into the environment, where they can bind to soil and remain infectious for years. Eradicating the prions once they appear is nearly impossible, he says.

DIF&W Director of Wildlife Judy Camuso says the disease can go undetected in an animal for several years.

“And it can also remain in the environment for up to 10 years, we think,” says Camuso.

To keep the disease out of Maine, the DIF&W is banning any imports of cervid carcasses, such as deer, moose, elk and caribou, or parts, into the state. The rules apply to all states and provinces with the exception of New Hampshire.

Department officials are also asking hunters to stop using urine-based deer lures or scents, which can introduce the disease into soil, where it can lay dormant for years before infecting a herd.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is concern that CWD could affect humans who eat meat from an infected animal, though no proof of such transmission has been documented.

Originally published Oct. 11, 2018 at 12:39 p.m. ET.