There are a lot of conflicting beliefs, claims and facts about Chronic Wasting Disease in whitetails, mostly because little is yet known about this fatal disease and because research results are unaccountedly slow to get to deer hunters. One related article that recently caught my attention revealed the infectious prions (much smaller than individual bacteria) that cause this disease are indeed directly transmitted from deer to deer via prion-contaminated saliva, urine and feces and indirectly via prion-contaminated soil, water and plants. Saliva transmissions are probably common because whitetails generally touch touch noses wet with saliva upon meeting one another. Mature whitetails defecate about twelve times a day and urinate more often than that, most often where they feed (unusually abundant deer droppings are an identifying characteristic of a whitetail feeding area). Deer urine or fluids from rain washed feces containing infectious prions are taken up by plant roots, after which the prions end up on surfaces of shoots, leaves and flowers above the the ground where they are impossible to wash off. They are even impossible to remove by ordinary means from smooth plastic and metal surfaces where they can remain infectious. These prions can’t be killed by cooking or any other means known today. Thus the cycle of indirect transmission of infectious prions from deer to deer—relatively quick, annually recurring and long lasting—continues unimpeded throughout our deer woods today.
What can us hunters do about seemingly unstoppable CWD? Help finance much needed CWD research and follow instructions provided by state deer managers in states where the battle to stop CWD is ungoing.
A final worrisome thought occurred to me last night after reading some recent articles about CWD. How long can ingested CWD prions live and perhaps muliply in the bodies of living creatures resistent to CWD that have recently eaten venison and/or venison fat from a deer that was infected with CWD, consumed entrails left in the woods by a hunter after field dressing a deer that was infected with CWD or consumed carrion of a deer that died as a result of being infected with CWD—creatures like humans or black bears, for example, or gray wolves, coyotes, foxes, fishers, eagles, buzzards, ravens, jays and even chickadees? Might all these creatures now be CWD carriers that unknowingly spread infectious CWD prions via their own urine and feces throughout near and distant whitetail ranges?