Four more deer have tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease, raising to nine the number affected in Hampshire County and prompting a look at altering the doe season there to reduce the overall population.

In a report, the Division of Natural Resources said the latest samples were taken in March and April and tested by the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study at the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

DNR Director Frank Jezioro said it appeared the CWD, a neurological ailment that always proves fatal to deer and elk, was confined to “a relatively small geographical area” near Slanesville.

“From a wildlife disease management perspective, we consider this to be encouraging news,” Jezioro said.

“Based upon these CWD surveillance findings, we are taking the steps necessary to implement appropriate management actions designed to control the spread of this disease, prevent further introduction of the disease and possibly eliminate the disease from the state.”

CWD figured in a controversial emergency rule imposed last year on West Virginia’s captive cervid industry.

The two sides battled almost a year over the rule, which was amended in this past legislative session when a compromise was brokered largely by Sen. Karen Facemyer, R-Jackson, in a series of talks between the DNR and industry officials.

Jezioro said his agency is evaluating an effort to trim the deer herds to minimize the risk of spreading CWD deer to deer by imposing “appropriate antlerless deer hunting regulations to increase hunter opportunity to harvest female deer.”

Another goal is to set up “reasonable, responsible and appropriate” restrictions on transporting deer carcasses.

A third point entails regulations on feeding and baiting of deer within Hampshire to prevent the spread of CWD.

“Landowner cooperation throughout this entire CWD surveillance effort in Hampshire County has just been terrific,” the director said.

“As we strive to meet this wildlife disease challenge and implement appropriate management strategies, the support and involvement of landowners and hunters will continue to be essential. The DNR remains committed to keeping the public informed and involved in these wildlife disease management actions.”

CWD reared itself initially last September, triggering a special incident response plan by the DNR.

From then until this month, the DNR has tested 1,317 animals in Hampshire County — 1,016 turned in by hunters, 216 deer collected by the state last fall and 85 others collected this year.

None of the deer shot by hunters tested positive.

Four of the 216 gathered by the DNR last fall were confirmed as infected, and four of the 85 taken this year had CWD.

The disease first surfaced in 1967 in Colorado.

“Our well trained and professional wildlife biologists, wildlife managers and conservation officers are working diligently to fully implement the DNR’s CWD incident response plan, which is designed to effectively address this wildlife disease threat,” Jezioro said.

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com

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