If you’ve been to Big Meadows recently, you may have noticed ear tags or radio collars on some of the deer. The National Park Service is monitoring deer in anticipation of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).
CWD is a neurological disease that is typically fatal to white-tailed deer. The disease is widespread in the western United States and is increasingly prevalent in the East. It is currently less than 30 miles from Shenandoah National Park’s northern boundary. CWD cannot be transmitted from animals to humans.
National Park Service policy requires park staff to attempt to address any non-native species (including pathogens) based on the effect they may have on the park’s ecology. Shenandoah National Park managers have been preparing for CWD for a number of years and are currently collaborating with federal and state agencies to develop a management plan. They are factoring in comments submitted by the public several years ago; the park anticipates an additional public comment period this winter, when the proposed management plan is further along.
A total of 70 deer will be radio collared or tagged in the North and Central Districts. These areas have the highest density of deer, making them fertile ground for a rapid spread of CWD. Radio collaring and tagging helps park managers understand movement patterns among deer populations and allows for follow-up if any animals test positive for the disease.