Tests on 64 deer taken from the five-mile Chronic Wasting Disease containment zone in Mississippi’s South Delta were all negative for CWD, state wildlife officials said on Tuesday.

On a video posted on MDWFP.com, Russ Walsh, executive wildlife bureau director, confirmed the negative results. 

“On Feb. 23, 2018, 64 deer were collected from the 5-mile containment zone; all the results came back as not detected for chronic wasting disease,” Walsh said. “So the question is, what are the next steps in the response plan?

“We will continue to monitor. We will continue to collect deer for sampling. We will continue to collect road-kill samples, as well as deer that are reported to us as diseased or sick.”

Walsh said the public should report sick deer to the agency by calling 601-432-2199 or online at mdwfp.com/cwd. Several have already been reported.

“In addition, we have sent off multiple samples of sick deer, diseased deer and we will report those results to you as they come in,” he said.

Walsh also explained the importance of a test that showed the CWD-positive deer’s DNA was consistent to that of a free-range, local deer.

“What those results tell us is that the deer was local or a native deer, so he would have contracted the disease from another local source,” he said. “So our efforts right now are vitally important in understanding the extent and prevalence of this disease, so our sampling will continue. We will move forward in our response plan. We hope to provide you with updates as they become available.”

While the negative test results are good news, they raise an interesting and disturbing question of how the agency can locate the “local source” of the CWD. The containment zone is flooding from the rising Mississippi River and its backwaters, scattering deer from the immediate 5-mile zone into surrounding areas.

“I’ve got 400 or 500 deer every afternoon in one of my fields that had to have come from the zone,” said Jeff Terry, whose 900 acres in Issaquena County near Eagle Lake border the 5-mile containment zone. “The agency are certainly welcome to come take some samples from them, and I have invited them to do so.”

To view Walsh’s online statement, visit https://www.mdwfp.com/wildlife-hunting/chronic-wasting-disease/.