CWD UPDATE January 12, 2005

The memorial service for Tom Thorne and Beth Williams was held in Laramie, Wyoming, on January 5. For a moving description of that service, go to www.wildlifedisease.org and follow the link. There is also information there for contributing to the Wildlife Disease Association for a tribute to these two outstanding people. A third case of BSE has been confirmed in Alberta, Canada. The latest incident is in a 7-year-old animal and is believed to be unrelated to the case announced last week. No part of the animal entered the human or animal food chain. In a related happening, a group of Montana ranchers have filed suit in federal court in an attempt to overturn the opening of the U.S. border to Canadian cattle and beef products. USDA is sending a team of experts to Canada to investigate the latest finding.

A reminder: The second international CWD symposium will be held in Madison, Wisconsin, July 12-14, 2005. The Wisconsin DNR and the National Wildlife Health Lab in Madison are organizing this event. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has completed the testing of 5,735 samples collected during the November firearm season for deer. We found an additional 29 animals positive for CWD. Most of these were in the Panhandle, however, one was in Hall County near Grand Island and one in Arthur County near the town of Arthur. These two represent an eastward movement of detected positives. A trial in Indiana is underway where a deer farm operator is accused of sedating animals with drugs prior to clients showing up to kill an animal. A grand jury in July indicted the operator and his manager on charges of illegally selling and transporting wildlife across state lines and facilitating the illegal killing of wildlife. The indictment also charged them with allowing unlicensed hunters to use illegal weapons and bait to hunt the deer. The manager has agreed to a plea bargain and will testify against the owner. He stated that the owner personally set the price to be charged, ranging from $4,000 to $20,000 per buck. He then described how deer were tranquilized and moved to small fenced-in pens for customers to choose their own bucks, which then were given reversal drugs. “Hunters were then taken to specific hunting tree stands in these high-fence pens and allowed to hunt the selected deer,” the manager stated.

Another interesting wildlife disease note is that a hunter in Michigan has been confirmed as becoming infected with bovine TB through a cut on his hand when he cleaned a deer he had harvested. The man killed the deer in Alcona County in October 2004 and sought medical attention after spotting telltale lesions in the animal’s chest cavity. The man has not been publicly identified, but is being treated and is expected to recover. Human cases usually are caused by breathing infected barn air or drinking unpasteurized milk from a sick cow. It is extremely rare to get the disease through cutaneous transmission.