Author Archives: CWD Alliance

Chronic wasting disease confirmed in one Arkansas elk

An elk harvested near Pruitt on the Buffalo National River during the October 2015 hunting season tested positive for chronic wasting disease, according to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

This is the first time an animal in Arkansas has tested positive for the disease, which is fatal to elk and whitetailed deer. To discuss the development, the Commission called a special meeting for 5:30 p.m. at the AGFC’s main office, 2 Natural Resources Drive, in Little Rock.

The AGFC created a CWD response plan in 2006, as the disease was appearing in other states.

“Several years ago, Arkansas proactively took measures to put a testing procedure in place and created an emergency CWD plan,” said Brad Carner, chief of the AGFC Wildlife Management Division. “Those precautions are now proving to be beneficial. We are in a strong position to follow the pre-established steps to ensure the state’s valuable elk and white-tailed deer herds remain healthy and strong.”

To determine how prevalent the disease may be, samples from up to 300 elk and white-tailed deer combined within a 5-mile radius of where the diseased elk was harvested will be tested. There is no reliable U.S. Department of Agriculture-approved test for CWD while the animals are alive. The AGFC will work with the National Park Service and local landowners to gather samples for testing.

A multi-county CWD management zone will be established, and public meetings in the area will be scheduled as forums to discuss plans and to answer questions.

The number of positive samples collected, if any, will help AGFC biologists determine the prevalence of CWD, and will guide their strategy to contain it.

“Although CWD is a serious threat to Arkansas’s elk and white-tailed deer, we are not the first to deal with the disease,” said AGFC Director Mike Knoedl. “Our staff is prepared and, with help from the public, will respond with effective measures. We have learned from the experiences of 23 other states.”

Biologists don’t know how the disease reached northern Arkansas at this point. The local herd began with 112 elk from Colorado and Nebraska, relocated between 1981-85.

“(CWD) would have raised its ugly head a lot sooner than now,” said Don White, a wildlife ecologist at the University of Arkansas Agriculture Experiment Station in Monticello. “I think that it’s extremely unlikely that it came from those 112 elk.”

Biologists have tested 204 Arkansas elk for CWD since 1997; the 2½-year-old female was the only one with a positive result. The AGFC also has routinely sampled thousands of white-tailed deer across the state since 1998.

Samples from the diseased female elk were tested at the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Madison, and verified by the National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa.

There are no confirmed cases of CWD transmission from cervids to humans or to livestock,

“As far as we know, it’s not transmissible to humans at all,” said Sue Weinstein, state public health veterinarian for the Arkansas Department of Health. “In other states where they have CWD and they are studying this, they have found no human disease at all. To be on the safe side, it is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and by the Department of Health that you not eat meat from an animal that you know is infected with chronic wasting disease.”

CWD was first documented among captive mule deer in Colorado in 1967, and has been detected in 24 states and two Canadian provinces. It’s been found in the wild in 20 states and among captive cervids in 15 states.

The AGFC has taken several steps to prevent the disease from entering the state. The Commission established a moratorium on the importation of live cervids in 2002, and restricted the importation of cervid carcasses in 2005. It also set moratoriums on permits for commercial hunting resorts and breeder/dealer permits for cervid facilities in 2006, and on obtaining hand-captured white-tailed deer in 2012.

According to the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance, CWD affects only cervids (hoofed animals in the cervidae family such as deer, elk and moose). Biologists believe it is transmitted through feces, urine and saliva. Prions (abnormal cellular proteins) that carry CWD have an incubation period of at least 16 months, and can survive for years in organic matter such as soil and plants.

CWD affects the body’s nervous system. Once in a host’s body, prions transform normal cellular protein into an abnormal shape that accumulates until the cell ceases to function. Infected animals begin to lose weight, lose their appetite and develop an insatiable thirst. They tend to stay away from herds, walk in patterns, carry their head low, salivate and grind their teeth.

More information available at http://www.agfc.com/hunting/Pages/HuntingDeerCWD.aspx

4th case of chronic wasting disease confirmed in South Texas

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — A fourth case of chronic wasting disease has been confirmed in deer in South Texas.

The San Antonio Express-News reported Friday that the latest infected deer was raised in Medina County at the same ranch as the other three animals. That’s prompted an increase in testing of both captive-bred and hunter-harvested deer.

New rules that take effect Aug. 24 establish conditions that must be met before breeders, most of whom have been banned from shipping deer since July, can sell or transport deer in advance of hunting season. The season starts in October.

CWD affects the brains and nervous systems of animals and isn’t considered a threat to human health.

Texas is limiting release of captive-raised deer to properties enclosed by high fencing to protect against spreading the disease.

DNR confirms third deer positive for CWD; hunter participation is critical this fall

Today, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced that a third free-ranging deer in Meridian Township (Ingham County) has tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD). The deer was a 5-year-old doe. All three CWD-positive deer detected thus far have been discovered within a mile of one another.

“As we stated with the second positive deer, this news is not surprising,” said Dr. Steve Schmitt, DNR wildlife veterinarian. “The good news is that all three deer came from the same small area.” Genetic analyses carried out by Michigan State University’s Molecular Ecology Laboratory indicate that all three positive animals were related as part of an extended family. Previous research has shown that CWD often is transmitted within family groups because of their close contact.

Hunters are critical to helping the DNR understand the prevalence and geographic distribution of the disease.

“We have focused our efforts thus far in the area around the first case,” Schmitt continued. ”We need individuals who have always hunted in Ingham County and surrounding counties to keep hunting. The DNR can’t fight this disease without their support. Hunters need to have their deer checked and tested so we can determine if this disease is established over a broad area or just persisting in a local pocket.”

In addition, it is critical that if an individual hunts outside Michigan in a state or province that has CWD in their free-ranging deer, elk, or moose that only the following parts of deer, elk, or moose carcasses are brought into Michigan:

  • Deboned meat.
  • Antlers.
  • Antlers attached to a skull cap cleaned of all brain and muscle tissue.
  • Hides.
  • Upper canine teeth.
  • Finished taxidermy mount.

If a hunter is notified by another state or province that a deer, elk, or moose that was brought into Michigan tested positive for CWD, that hunter must contact the DNR Wildlife Disease Lab within two business days (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) at 517-336-5030.

CWD is a fatal neurological disease that affects white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose. It is caused by the transmission of infectious, self-multiplying proteins (prions) contained in saliva and other body fluids of infected animals. Susceptible animals can acquire CWD by direct exposure to these fluids, or from environments contaminated with these fluids or the carcass of a diseased animal.

Some chronically CWD-infected animals will display abnormal behaviors, progressive weight loss and physical debilitation. There is no cure; once a deer is infected with CWD, it will die.

To date, there is no evidence that chronic wasting disease presents any risk to non-cervids, including humans, either through contact with an infected animal or from handling venison. However, as a precaution, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend that infected animals not be consumed as food by either humans or domestic animals.

The DNR provides CWD weekly updates online at www.michigan.gov/cwd. Announcements of additional CWD-positive deer within that same area will be listed online. Additional news updates will be issued if a CWD-positive deer is found outside the immediate area.

Michigan confirms chronic wasting disease in second free-ranging white-tailed deer

The Michigan departments of Natural Resources (DNR) and Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) have confirmed a second free-ranging deer in Meridian Township (Ingham County) has tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD), a fatal neurological disease that affects white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose. This second case is a 2-year-old male found less than a mile from the initial positive female deer, confirmed this past May. Genetic testing is being conducted to see if the two deer are related.

“Finding this second positive deer is disappointing, however, not unexpected,” said DNR Wildlife Division Chief Russ Mason. “We will continue with our aggressive surveillance throughout the summer and fall. With the assistance of hunters, we hope to determine the distribution of this disease.”

To date, 304 deer have been tested in the Core CWD Area. Only two have tested positive for CWD.

Upon the finding of the initial CWD positive deer, the DNR established the CWD Management Zone consisting of Clinton, Ingham and Shiawassee counties.

Additionally, the Core CWD Area consisting of Lansing, Meridian, Williamstown, Delhi, Alaiedon and Wheatfield townships in Ingham County; DeWitt and Bath townships in Clinton County; and Woodhull Township in Shiawassee County, was created. Feeding and baiting of deer and elk are prohibited in the CWD Management Zone. Mandatory checking of deer will be required in the Core CWD Area during hunting seasons and restrictions will apply to the movement of carcasses and parts of deer taken in this area.

“Michigan has a long tradition of hunter support and conservation ethics. Now, with these CWD findings, that support is needed more than ever,” said Steve Schmitt, veterinarian-in-charge at the DNR Wildlife Disease Lab. “Because hunters are often familiar with the deer herd locally, one of the best things they can do to help manage this disease is to continue hunting and bring their deer to check stations this season.”

In the Core CWD Area, there is an unlimited antlerless deer license quota and the deer license or deer combo licenses may be used to harvest antlerless or any antlered deer during firearm and muzzleloading seasons. Additional deer-check stations will be established in the Core CWD Area and the CWD Management Zone to accommodate hunters.

To date, there is no evidence that chronic wasting disease presents any risk to non-cervids, including humans, either through contact with an infected animal or from handling contaminated venison. However, as a precaution, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend that infected animals not be consumed as food by either humans or domestic animals.

The DNR asks that the public and hunters continue to report deer that are unusually thin and exhibiting unusual behavior (for example, acting tame around humans and allowing someone to approach).

To report a suspicious-looking deer, call the DNR Wildlife Disease Lab at 517-336-5030 or fill out and submit the online observation report, found on the DNR website.

DNR staff will continue with road-kill collection in the Core CWD Area. To report road-kills found in the Core CWD Area call the Wildlife Disease Hotline at 517-614-9602. Leave a voicemail with location information and staff will attempt to pick up carcasses on the next open business day.

More information on CWD, including Michigan’s CWD surveillance and response plan and weekly testing updates, are available at www.michigan.gov/cwd.

Ten Deer Test Positive for CWD in 2014-2015

PRATT – A total of 640 deer were tested for chronic wasting disease (CWD) during the 2014-2015 seasons, and 10 of those were confirmed positive. Samples were obtained from deer killed by hunters in southcentral and southwest parts of Kansas and from sick and/or suspect deer observed in the eastern, northcentral and northwest parts of the state. The 10 confirmed positives included two mule deer, one from Rawlins County and one from Scott County; and eight whitetails including two from Decatur County and one from each of the following counties, Norton, Meade, Hodgeman, Pawnee, Kearny, and Gray.

CWD testing began in 1996 to help track the occurrence of CWD in the state’s wild deer, and nearly 25,000 tissue samples have undergone lab analysis since. The first CWD occurrence documented in a wild Kansas deer was a whitetail doe killed by a hunter in 2005 in Cheyenne County. Seventy-four deer have tested positive since testing began, and most have occurred in northwest Kansas, specifically Decatur, Rawlins, Sheridan and Norton counties.

Although research is underway, there is currently no vaccine or other biological method of preventing CWD. The only tool is to prevent the spread of CWD to new areas. Once the infective particle (an abnormal prion) is deposited into the environment – either through an infected carcass or from a live animal – it may exist for a decade or more, capable of infecting a healthy deer.

Despite the recent occurrences, the likelihood of finding CWD in a wild deer harvested in Kansas is small. That small likelihood decreases even more the farther from northwestern Kansas the deer live. In recent years, numerous cases of CWD have been documented in neighboring areas of Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming.

While CWD is fatal to infected deer and elk, humans have never been known to contract the disease. CWD is a member of the group of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). Other diseases in this group include scrapie in sheep and goats, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or mad cow disease) in cattle, and Cruetzfeldt-Jacob disease in people.

CWD is a progressive, fatal disease that results in small holes developing in the brain, giving it a sponge-like appearance under the microscope. Decreased brain function causes the animal to display neurological signs such as depression, droopy head, staggering, loss of appetite, and a lack of response to people. The continuing deterioration of the brain leads to other signs such as weight loss, drooling, rough coat, and excessive thirst. Caution is advised because of unknown factors associated with prion diseases, but no human health risks have been discovered where CWD occurs. Any sick deer or elk with signs listed above or exhibiting behaviors such as stumbling, holding the head at an odd angle, walking in circles, entangled in fences or staying near farm buildings for extended periods of time should be reported to the nearest KDWPT office or the Emporia Research Office, 620-342-0658.

Hunters can help protect the health of the Kansas deer herd and slow CWD’s spread by not introducing the disease to new areas in Kansas through disposal of deer carcass waste. Avoid transporting a deer carcass from the area where it was taken, especially from areas where CWD has been detected. If the carcass is transported, dispose of carcass waste by double-bagging it and taking it to a landfill. Landowners can also bury carcasses on their own property.

The Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance maintains an online clearinghouse of information about the disease. More information is also available at www.ksoutdoors.com.