COLUMBUS — A rare disease found in Ohio’s captive deer population has prompted state wildlife officials to seek tissue samples from wild deer in the area around the hunting preserve where an infected deer was confirmed.
The Ohio Division of Wildlife is asking for tissue samples of wild deer as a precaution. Chronic wasting disease was recently identified in a deer at the preserve known as the World Class Whitetails of Ohio ranch in Holmes County, northeast of Columbus. As of Sunday, the disease had not been found in Ohio’s wild herd, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
The disease, which hasn’t been shown to infect humans, attacks the brain of the infected animal, produces lesions and eventually leads to death. Wildlife officials are asking for deer heads on a voluntary basis in the sampling area, which is restricted to eight townships in Holmes County surrounding the preserve.
A spokeswoman for the state Department of Agriculture told the Zanesville Times Recorder that no decision has been made about what to do with the estimated 300 deer remaining at World Class Whitetails.
The spokeswoman said killing all the deer at the ranch in Millersburg is “not off the table,” and there is no set schedule for when a decision will be made.
The Agriculture Department, which oversees captive deer operations in the state, confirmed an infected buck at the Millersburg site last month.
Bryan Richards, the chronic wasting disease project leader at the National Wildlife Health Center, told the Times Recorder that euthanizing deer from a diseased herd has been the management tool employed at the majority of facilities across the United States and Canada to reduce the risk to free-ranging deer outside the facility.
Curt Waldvogel, president of Whitetail Deer Farmers of Ohio, said it is too early to know the best response to the disease found at the Ohio ranch. The industry tries to work with the farmer and the state to develop the best solution, he said.
A message left Sunday at the ranch in Millersburg seeking comment was not immediately returned.
At least 19 states have found the disease in their wild deer populations.
Ohio was the 14th state to identify the disease in its captive population.