AL wildlife officials keep close eye on infected deer case in Mississippi

AL wildlife officials keep close eye on infected deer case in Mississippi
(Source: Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA/AP) - Many of you are deer hunters and by now you've heard the case of a big buck infected with chronic wasting disease in west Mississippi. Hunters found the deer alive and acting strange in late January. It died the next day.

The report surprised Alabama wildlife officials.

"I was surprised. CWD is not a good thing for the conservation world or for the deer," said Keith Gualdin, Chief of Wildlife Section at the Wildlife & Freshwater Fisheries Division.

So far, so good in Alabama. No reports of a chronic wasting disease case. But no one at the wildlife division in Montgomery is letting their guard down.

The disease is caused by a rogue protein that attacks the brain. The deer often die from secondary illnesses such as pneumonia.

"We at wildlife and biologists have been conducting active surveillance activities since 2002, so we collect deer, we collect samples," said Gauldin.

The disease is not new. It's been around for a long time, first discovered in 1967 in Colorado.

"And since that time, it's been on all wildlife agencies' radar," Gauldin said.

Deer hunting is a $1 billion business in Alabama. As of now, there is no evidence to suggest the disease is contagious to humans.

"But they strongly encourage hunters to test the deer if they're in that CWD hot zone," he said.

Mississippi has since banned supplemental feeding in six counties in west Mississippi. There's no such ban for now in Alabama. The symptoms from an infected deer are insatiable thirst, rapid weight loss and grinding teeth.

Gauldin encourages anyone who sees a deer behaving strangely to call the Game Watchline number at 1-800-272-GAME.

Alabama bans importing deer carcasses from all 25 states that have confirmed the presence of chronic wasting disease.

Copyright 2018 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this story.