Test results from more than 400 white-tailed deer and moose harvested in Maine in 2012 have all tested negative for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has been monitoring and testing for CWD since 1999 and, to date, the more than 8,500 deer and moose examined have all tested negative for the incurable disease.

This year, the department tested tissue samples from 404 deer and eight moose that were harvested, as well as a few animals that had to be dispatched due to suspected illnesses.

CWD is known to occur in white-tailed deer, moose and elk, while other cervids such as red deer, sika deer and caribou also are susceptible. It is an untreatable disease and causes irreversible damage to brain tissues that ultimately leads to death in affected animals.

CWD is one of a group of diseases known as Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs). Other TSEs include Scrapie in sheep, Mad Cow Disease in cattle and Creuzfeldt Jacob Disease in humans.

Even though CWD has not been detected in Maine, it is critical to continue testing as it has been found in many states and provinces such as New York and West Virginia.

CWD could enter the state if a hunter kills a deer or other cervid infected with the disease and brings it back to Maine either whole or improperly dressed out. It is illegal for hunters who kill a deer, elk, moose or caribou in another state or province to transport any carcass parts that pose a risk of containing CWD prions into Maine.

Hunters may return to Maine only with boned-out meat, hardened antlers (with or without skull caps), hides without the head portion and finished taxidermy mounts. If still attached, skull caps must be cleaned and free of brain and other tissues.

It is legal to transport cervid carcasses or parts through Maine if they are destined for out-of-state locations. Cervid carcasses must be transported in a way that is leak-proof and prevents exposure to the environment.

Keeping CWD out of Maine is critical to the health and productivity of the state's deer and moose populations. If CWD emerges in Maine, it could seriously reduce infected deer populations by lowering adult survival and destabilizing populations.

Monitoring and control of CWD is extremely costly. The common practice once CWD is discovered is to reduce deer densities in the area where CWD was found to as low a density as possible. This action is, of course, necessary to prevent the spread of the disease but also wastes a great wildlife resource. Such an action would not only affect the deer, but the people who enjoy seeing and hunting deer, and the livelihoods of the merchants, guides, and camp owners who cater to outdoor enthusiasts.

If one plans to hunt deer, moose, elk or caribou in a state/province known or suspected to harbor CWD there are commonsense precautions one should take to avoid handling, transporting, or consuming potentially CWD-infected specimens. One can go to the department's website at mefishwildlife.com to view these precautions or to learn more about CWD.

Courier Publications sports staff can be reached by phone at 207-594-4401 or by email at sports@courierpublicationsllc.com.