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Brain-eating disease threatens Alabama deer population

(IMG: WPMI) Brain disease infecting deer population during hunting season
(IMG: WPMI) Brain disease infecting deer population during hunting season
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A brain-eating disease known as Chronic Wasting Disease (or CWD) is threatening the deer population of Alabama.

Recent cases of the disease have been confirmed within 50 miles of the state line in Mississippi.

Rifle season began on Saturday. A lot of hunters hit the woods looking for deer, but they also need to be on the lookout for CWD that may be making it's way to Alabama. It's a contagious brain disease and can potentially infect humans who consume diseased deer.

NBC 15 spoke with local hunters and Senator Doug Jones about the threat. They say they haven't seen any deer with this disease in Alabama yet, but they aren't letting down their guard.

"It’s dangerous because it can definitely hurt you and your family because if you harvest a deer it can do harm," said Drew Williams.

"I think everybody in Alabama is concerned about this because it's gradually moving east from the west. There have been some recent reports in Mississippi and it has people in Alabama even more alarmed,” said Senator Doug Jones.

CWD can have a major effect on a deer population.

Hunter, Donovan Long said it's important for everyone to recognize the symptoms of CWD.

“It transfers through the ground. If an infected deer dies and years down the road another deer comes and eat in the same spot they can contract it that way,” said Donovan Long.

“Drooling, the deer is disoriented, brain damage and walking in circles like they don’t know where they are at," Long added.

Just a few days ago Alabama Senator Doug Jones introduced legislation to tackle CWD and increase wildlife managers' ability to keep wildlife healthy.

“As an avid outdoorsman and hunter, I am deeply troubled by the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease,” said Senator Jones. “This disease is threatening to impact the wildlife population in Alabama just as it has in a number of other states throughout the country. That’s why it is so vital for the Senate to pass legislation that will ultimately give state and local wildlife officials the tools they need to contain the spread of CWD," said Senator Jones.

“It's a serious problem one that needs an additional study. I want to make sure that we can do all that we can to prevent this from spreading in Alabama, so we can maintain our herd and the hunters will have all the deer they need," Senator Jones said.

As for now, local hunters say CWD won’t stop them from hitting the woods.

“I love hunting. I do every time I get a chance to so if I see a deer with it I will shoot it and I will call the game warden, but other than that I am not worried about Chronic Wasting Disease,” said Long.

“We will just keep an eye on it. That’s all we can do," said Williams.

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Senator Jones says there still isn't enough research yet on Chronic Wasting Disease and he hopes to soon get federal resources that will help find and study the most vulnerable areas.

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