First case of chronic wasting disease confirmed in Kentucky

Published 12:03 pm Tuesday, December 12, 2023

By Liam Niemeyer

Kentucky Lantern

Kentucky wildlife management officials say a deer in West Kentucky has tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD) — a fatal neurological disease that impacts elk, deer and other species in the deer family — marking the first such case in the state.

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A Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources release Thursday states two independent types of tests confirmed that a two-and-a-half year-old deer killed by a hunter in Ballard County had tested positive for CWD.

Department Commissioner Rich Storm in a statement said officials “hoped this day would never come” but had prepared for it.

“Although CWD is always fatal to infected individual animals, by following best practices we can minimize its impact on the long-term health and sustainability of our deer herd so that we can continue to enjoy our deer and elk herds for many generations to come, helping to safeguard the many ways that they benefit the Commonwealth,” Storm said in his statement.

Wildlife management officials established a “surveillance zone” in 2021 to collect deer sample for CWD after a deer in Tennessee near the Kentucky border had tested positive for the disease. The department had operated the surveillance zone the past two years in five West Kentucky counties, not including Ballard County. The department’s release states officials had collected 1,318 deer samples at various CWD check stations in West Kentucky.

CWD has spread to more than half of U.S. states including six of the seven states bordering Kentucky.

A hunter harvested the Kentucky deer that tested positive for CWD on the first day of the modern gun deer season, Nov. 11. Kentucky’s deer hunting season continues through Jan. 15. The department is encouraging hunters  throughout the state to check harvested deer to be tested for CWD through a no-cost deer sample collection program.