DEEP is asking hunters for deer heads

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FRANKLIN & COLUMBIA, Conn. (WTNH) — In the indoor archery area of Center Sports you see Eric Cummings take a shot with his crossbow.

Less than a second later the arrow lands right in the bulls eye.

So it may be no surprise it didn’t take long for Cummings to get his first deer on this first day of bow hunting season and he does plan to donate the head to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

“If it was a buck I wouldn’t want to do it but if it was a doe I wouldn’t have a problem with it,” says Cummings.

He and other hunters are being asked for their deer heads so they can be tested for chronic wasting disease or CWD.

“It’s basically a disease that affects the nervous system, the brain,” says state wildlife biologist Andrew LaBonte. “People can kind of relate it to mad cow disease.”

Cummings knows of the disease because his family’s hunting and fishing gear store, Center Sports in Columbia, was a deer check in station for the state. Some of his deer heads are hung there. He’s glad to see the state be proactive.

“Because if it is coming here you want to make sure you take all precautions to prevent it from coming here or spreading if it does come,” says Cummings.

“We’ve been collecting deer heads since 2003,” explains LaBonte. “We collected over 5,000 deer and so far we have not documented any CWD in Connecticut and the good thing it hasn’t been documented anywhere in New England.”

But the disease has spread from just isolated areas out west in the 1960s to 20 different states now.

The concern comes with infected deer in captivity. Their urine is often bottled and sold to hunters who use it to attract wild deer during hunting season.

“So there is concern that sooner or later there will be a detection probably in New England,” says LaBonte.

Infected deer are often lethargic or unsteady, symptoms similar to rabies.

“Don’t consume like the tongue,” says LaBonte. “Try to avoid any spinal fluid, brain.”

He also warns when handling any deer you hunt you should always wear rubber gloves just to be on the safe side.

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