CWD UPDATE November 19, 2003

The fiscal year 04 Interior budget passed by Congress includes 4.2 million for CWD research to USGS. This is a 1 million dollar increase over last year’s 3.2 million dollar appropriation. This includes a specified appropriation of $250,000 to establish a wildlife disease center in Wisconsin. (Bruce’s note: I don’t know if this refers to the National Wildlife Health Lab or to another center in Wisconsin) The USGS will utilize the funding to study the transmission pathways of the disease, as well as outbreak patterns and the disease’s possible associations with landscape features.

Four deer have tested positive for chronic wasting disease in new areas of southern Wyoming. The deer were killed in three hunt areas in Carbon County, and were among 3,893 animals tested by the State Veterinary Lab in Laramie. These infected deer were adjacent to areas known to be infected with CWD. This comes soon after infected deer were found in the Bighorn Basin of northern Wyoming, representing a new area of infection.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife reports that an additional 83 animals have tested positive for CWD as a result of the hunting season surveillance. This is as of November 7, the close of the third rifle deer and elk season. Hunters have submitted over 11,000 animals for testing. Positive breakdown is 65 mule deer, 1 whitetail deer and 17 elk. Of these positive, 24 were in new Game Management Units where CWD had not been detected before. A map of the new areas is available on the CDOW website.

The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks reports a positive elk from the fall hunting season. This was a cow elk taken by a hunter just west of Wind Cave National Park. The only other positive elk from South Dakota was a target animal from Wind Cave National Park.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources reports another positive buck mule deer from the LaSal Mountain area. The deer was taken during the rifle hunt and the hunter has been notified of the test results. This brings to six the number of deer that have tested positive for CWD since the disease was first found in Utah in February 2003. Three of the six deer came from the LaSal Mountain area, two were killed near Vernal and one was killed near Fountain Green in central Utah.

The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish has modified their ban on the importation of captive cervids. The new ban permits importation of animals from areas where CWD has not occurred and only from facilities that have been testing all deaths for a period of 60 months (5 years). Additional information on the new rules and regulations can be found at the New Mexico Game and Fish web site.

USDA-APHIS has published a proposed rule in the November 4, 2003 Federal Register titled “Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy; Minimal Risk Regions and Importation of Commodities.” This relates to the ruminant ban from Canada and other areas. The deadline for comments is January 5, 2004.

Region 8 of the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency has established a panel of experts to establish recommendations for the disposal of deer and elk tissue infected with CWD. Among those on the panel are Colorado Division of Wildlife Director Russell George, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Executive Director Doug Benevento, South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture John Gabriel and EPA Region 8 Director Robbie Roberts. This panel will oversee two work groups assessing the “risks” and “best practices” for handling the disease. Although this panel and the results will initially apply to those states covered by the Denver office of the EPA’s Region 8, other regions could adopt them as well. Region 8 covers the states of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota. Montana and North Dakota are the only states in Region 8 that have not found CWD in wild cervids as of this date.

The Minnesota DNR hopes to collect 13,000 deer for CWD testing during the hunting season that opens Saturday, November 8. Last year they collected approximately 5,000 samples after finding CWD in elk on two game farms. The tests last year failed to detect CWD in the free roaming population of deer. Over 400 DNR employees and volunteers will collect samples at 135 check stations in the northwest, northeast, east-central and west-central regions of the state. As an incentive this fall, hunters who submit their deer for testing will have a chance to win one of about 20 rifles, shotguns, bows and muzzleloaders donated by the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, the Bluffland Whitetails Association and various outdoor stores.

A third ELISA test has been licensed for CWD testing. This is the IDEXX test that has been approved by USDA-Center for Veterinary Biologics for use on the retropharyngeal lymph nodes of white tail deer only. The approval was issued on November 4, 2003.

A police officer in Michigan stopped to held a couple whose vehicle had broken down and found they had six deer and an elk in their trailer. The couple had purchased the animals at an auction in Ohio and wanted to keep them as pets at their home north of Grand Rapids. They were given the choice of euthanizing the animals or returning them to Ohio. The couple opted to return the animals to Ohio. It is unknown if the couple was aware of the Michigan ban on the importation of cervids. This is a perfect example of how unregulated interstate movement of captive cervids occurs; if the couple’s vehicle had not developed problems, these animals could have made it to their final destination without detection.