A one-antlered deer takes center stage among several others near Stratton in 2013. Credit: Courtesy of Alyssa Urquhart

Since word of the discovery of Chronic Wasting Disease in a single deer north of Montreal a year ago, state biologists have kept an eye toward the north as they’ve continued ongoing tests for the disease on Maine deer.

Prior to 2018, Maine had limited the importation of unprocessed deer carcasses to those taken in New Hampshire, and some Canadian provinces, including Quebec. After the discovery of the Quebec deer infected with the fatal disease, the Canadian provinces were removed from that “exempt” list that’s included on a Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife informational page on Chronic Wasting Disease.

Last week Nathan Bieber, the state’s deer biologist, said that preventative efforts have continued in the Pine Tree State. And he doesn’t think a wild Canadian deer that has been infected with the disease is poised to trot into Maine and infect deer here.

“So far as we’re aware, there’s no Chronic Wasting Disease in the wild in Quebec,” he said. “They did have those captive red deer that tested positive, but they haven’t found anything in the wild. So that’s great news.”

According to the DIF&W’s Chronic Wasting Disease info page:

— It is a fatal brain disease of whitetailed deer, mule deer, caribou, moose, and elk. It is similar to mad cow disease which occurs in cattle.

— It occurs in wild deer populations in 24 U.S. states and 2 Canadian provinces, and has been detected in states as close as Pennsylvania and New York.

— It has not yet been recorded as being transmissible to people. However, a similar disease does exist in humans.

— It can persist in the environment outside of a host for many years.

— It has a 100 percent mortality rate in deer.

Maine biologists collect lymph nodes from 450 to 500 hunter-killed deer each year; those lymph nodes are sent to a lab to be tested for Chronic Wasting Disease. Bieber said the department targets specific areas when collecting those samples.

“We try to target our sample around higher risk areas, so those are either going to be areas with captive deer facilities or areas with high natural concentrations of deer from deer yards or maybe from feeding,” Bieber said. “If there’s a large feeding operation we will focus on those towns as well.”

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...