DAN KIBLER COLUMN: 13 more CWD-infected deer discovered in NC

Some people might think it was bad news that the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission confirmed 13 new cases of chronic wasting disease in the state’s deer herd since last July 1, but there is a silver lining.

Dan Kibler

The Commission released a report on CWD testing, and with the 13 positive CWD tests, North Carolina has discovered 24 deer infected with the fatal disease since it was first detected in a Yadkin County deer killed during the 2021 season.

So what’s a positive when more CWD deer were discovered this past year than in the previous two years, combined?

Well, they’re not showing up in any new areas.

Of the infected deer most-recently discovered, five were from Cumberland County, one from Stokes County, five from Surry County and two from Yadkin County. All four counties had previously produced CWD-infected deer.

Surry has had 10 CWD deer confirmed since 2022, followed by Cumberland with six, Yadkin with four, Stokes with two and Wilkes with one.

Brad Howard, the biologist who runs the Commission’s Division of Wildlife Management, was moderately pleased by this year’s testing results.

“These additional cases are not entirely unexpected,” he said. “I’m actually encouraged by how few CWD-positive deer we’ve found, given how many deer we’ve tested.

“The sampling numbers this year were unprecedented. Working with our hunters, taxidermists, and processors, we tested roughly 19% of the total reported harvest statewide. Not finding CWD in any new counties this year is extremely encouraging.”

The Commission collected samples from more than 36,000 deer since last July, with 98% of the samples tested. Besides the 13 positive tests, one deer from Johnston County and one from Franklin County initially tested positive, but secondary testing through an Iowa laboratory reversed those results.

“This is exactly why we submit samples for double confirmation and why we do not initiate regulation changes until we have that confirmation,” Howard said.

CWD is a neurological disease caused by abnormal proteins that spread through a deer’s system, causing brain abnormalities that lead to death. It is spread between deer through direct contact via saliva, urine and feces. There is no vaccine, treatment or cure, and no approved live test for CWD. Biologists learn about the disease and its spread only through testing dead deer, primarily harvested by hunters.

When CWD was first discovered, the Commission implemented new rules about the transportation, handling and processing of deer carcasses, along with requiring hunters in affected areas to have deer taken during certain portions of the season sampled.

Three NC pros get big paydays

Three professional bass fishermen from North Carolina made some nice checks at the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on Florida’s Harris chain of lakes April 12-15.

K.J. Queen of Catawba had a four-day total of 20 bass weighing 72 pounds to take third place and $30,000. Hank Cherry Jr. of Maiden finished 30th with 39 pounds, earning $10,000, and Brandon Card of Salisbury was 45th with 33 pounds, 10 ounces, also earning $10,000.

John Garrett of Union City, Tennessee, won the tournament with 20 bass that weighed 84 pounds, 5 ounces. He won $103,000.

Turkey harvest has already topped 14,000

North Carolina turkey hunters are on the way to a fine spring season, if early harvest results from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission are any indication.

Through April 20, the second Saturday of the statewide season (after a week of youth-only hunting), hunters have killed 14,595 wild turkeys. Last season, North Carolina had a statewide record of more than 24,000 turkeys. At the same juncture of the season, the harvest was 13,607.

Dan Kibler has covered the outdoors since 1985 as outdoors editor of the Winston-Salem Journal and later as managing editor of Carolina Sportsman until his retirement in 2021.