By Alex DeMetrick

ALLEGANY COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) — Chronic wasting disease is an illness lethal to deer that has surfaced for the first time in Maryland.

Alex DeMetrick reports the big question is how many deer in Maryland have been exposed?

Last November, on the opening day of deer season, a hunter in Allegany County shot and killed a deer, but that kill itself contained a killer–chronic wasting disease.

“It eats away at the nervous system. Ultimately, what it does is create these spongy-like holes in the brain,” said Paul Peditto, director of DNR Wildlife and Heritage.

Similar to mad cow, wildlife managers from 20 other states have posted images of chronic wasting disease.

Although not believed to be a threat to other species, it is easily spread among deer and elk, leaving them unable to care for themselves.

Frequently fatal, Maryland had hoped it wouldn’t come here.

“We’re hopeful it is a single positive case,” said Peditto.

Deer killed by cars in the circle will be tested. During next fall’s hunting season, biologists will take tissue samples at reporting sites. If lab work confirms another case, the monitoring zone will be doubled.

If it spreads, stopping chronic wasting would likely be impossible.

“Some of the states that came before us have tried to de-populate, or wipe out those deer populations. But that’s a near impossible task, so we’re not going down that road,” said Peditto.

Deer and people will have to live with it.

There is no evidence chronic wasting disease will infect livestock.  Nor is it a threat to people, although experts warn animals that appear sick should never be consumed.


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