Claiborne County detects first Chronic Wasting Disease positive

Published 11:23 am Wednesday, February 7, 2024

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PORT GIBSON — Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks confirmed a positive detection of Chronic Wasting Disease in Claiborne County Wednesday morning. According to the CWD dashboard, it is one of six new positives to come in today. 

MDWFP’s dashboard map shows the positive was detected west of Port Gibson about three miles from the boundary line of the Mississippi River and about 10 miles from positives in Tensas Parish. Chronic Wasting Disease is caused by an infectious prion and is a 100 percent always fatal disease in the cervidae family threatening Mississippi’s deer herd. 

Mississippi’s other five CWD detections came in DeSoto County, Benton County and Marshall County. MDWFP reported a season record in CWD positives was reached in January. 

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Mississippi had a chance to potentially slow the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease to Claiborne County but commissioners voted to rescind a supplemental feed ban in the county at the bequest of a private landowner and Lincoln County resident Charlie Davis and a businessman in Vicksburg. At the same time, commissioners voted to amend the CWD management plan and zone by deciding the river was enough to separate CWD positives in Tensas Parish from Claiborne County. MDWFP commissioner William Mounger voted against the motion to change the plan and voiced his concern for what could happen if Southwest Mississippi became like North Mississippi. 

“There are no big deer up there anymore. The bucks move around naturally and catch it. Once it gets a hold of a deer herd, it will be decimated here. We will lose all of the industry. Not just feed but guns, tree stands and blinds,” Mounger said. “If you don’t know it we will end up like north Mississippi. Hear how property values have gone down in north Mississippi. If we could stop it here it would be great. We know the deer cross the river. It is not an impenetrable barrier.” 

Ed Penny, a landowner in Claiborne County, asked the commission to reinstate the feed ban and they refused in December 2022. He requested a similar reinstatement at the January 2023 commission meeting. 

“I feel it was an irresponsible decision and must be addressed. I respect a lot of what you do but I have to call you out on this,” Penny said in December 2022. “The CWD plan includes a management plan with tools such as feed bans to limit the spread. Your decision was made outside of existing law. You did not consult with other entities. I am disappointed this was made without public input. We did not know this was on the agenda. We have heard a lot about bad apples today and wildlife violators should not define wildlife policy in this state. It matters a lot to me.” 

A test conducted by Mississippi State University indicated there were CWD prions on the landscape in a Claiborne County scrape. Russ Walsh told commissioners in June it was a canary in the coal mine. 

Commissioner William Mounger was the only voice of reason when commissioners voted to change the management plan for Claiborne County. He grew up in the area and remembered a time when there were hardly any deer. Mounger said at the November 2022 meeting he wanted to make the right decisions.  

“I respect this motion and understand we have to have balance. What guides me is that in 20 years I want to look back on this,” Mounger said. “I do not want to see CWD take a hold of Claiborne, Issaquena or Warren Counties. I want to see that I took all of the precautions I could to stop it. I want my grandchildren to have a place to hunt and a healthy deer herd to hunt. We need to do whatever we can. People need to continue to get educated. We need to find the cancer before it takes us all down.”  

What’s next?

All of Claiborne County will likely be placed into a CWD Management Zone although the Commission will likely have to make the decision at February’s commission meeting. Under the management zone, supplemental feeding will be banned as will carcass exportation. 

Hunters should sample deer for CWD to aid the MDWFP in determining the disease’s prevalence in Claiborne County and survey for the disease in other low sampled counties in Southwest Mississippi. Canemount WMA and All Creatures Veterinary Hospital in Port Gibson have self serve drop off coolers for samples.