Deer disease detected in Shenandoah County

The slow progression of chronic wasting disease has made its way to Shenandoah County, and two positive cases were detected in Frederick County, near the West Virginia state line.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries news release on Feb. 27 also noted two additional positive cases were detected in Frederick County, near the West Virginia state line.

Chronic wasting disease is a deadly neurological disease that is only transmittable through deer and has an extremely high rate of mortality.

The Shenandoah case was reported in the northeastern portion of the county, in between Strasburg and Front Royal, according to wildlife veterinarian Dr. Megan Kirchgessner of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

“Within the next couple of days, we will have a map on our website … it will show the general area where that positive was located,” Kirchgessner said.

This latest positive sample is the 10th confirmed case of chronic wasting disease in the state since it was first reported in 2009.

Of the total cases collected, Kirchgessner noted that this is the positive of a “deer that was killed incidentally on the road.”

“One of our biologists drove past [the deer] … pulled over, took a sample for us and it ended up being positive,” Kirchgessner explained.

As result of the case, Kirchgessner said the department will be increasing the size of its wasting disease containment area to include the counties of Shenandoah, Warren, Frederick and Clarke.

The department’s most recent containment area was defined as being west of Interstate 81.

Kirchgessner noted that while the positive was within the department’s current containment area, it was close enough to the edge for the state to reassess the borders.

“I think it more than doubles it. Our old containment area was about 500 square miles, so this will be over 1,000 square miles,” Kirchgessner added.

Because of the expanded containment area, the department will also be working more closely with Shenandoah National Park in terms of tracking the disease.

“I think it is going to work really well for the park because we are going to be able to supplement their samples … in that area,” Kirchgessner said.

In specific terms, Kirchgessner explained that the department will partly do this by requiring “any deer harvest on the first two Saturdays of the regular firearms season must be brought to a CWD [chronic wasting disease] check station.”

Kirchgessner added that the department has never done this in Warren County. “They will be able to take our data and supplement their data through the rest of the park.”

At the moment, the park is in the middle of analyzing comments for an amendment to its wasting disease management plan.

Park public affairs officer Karen Beck-Herzog said that officials are finalizing analysis from public comments received in two periods from December and January.

If the park determines a finding of no significant impact from the comments, then the amendment will go to the park’s regional director for approval.

The amendment has been discussed since November and it would authorize the park to kill up to 500 deer for sampling from highly populated areas, in stages and over a period of five years.

Any new actions or lethal sampling, Beck-Herzog said, would only take place if a case were to be detected within five miles of the park’s borders. “It’s about 10 miles away now.”

By expanding its containment area, the department will also be looking to amend its regulations concerning the transportation of deer carcasses.

“A deer that is killed in any one of those four counties can be transported to the other three,” Kirchgessner said, adding that particular parts of deer killed in the four counties cannot be transported to other portions of the state.

In basic terms, Kirchgessner explained that the department is prohibiting the transport of “the head and the spinal cord and all of the fluid and tissue associated with those.”

“We will also be prohibiting the rehabilitation of deer in all four counties,” Kirchgessner said.

According to Kirchgessner, the department already adjusted hunting and bagging laws for the spread of chronic wasting disease in 2009 and won’t change as a result of the new cases.

“We’re doing do diligence to continue to monitor the percentage of deer infected and the geographic spread of the disease,” Kirchgessner said.

More information about the department’s chronic wasting disease plan and transportation restrictions can be found at

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or