LARAMIE – One mule deer buck harvested Oct. 3 from deer Hunt Area 76 on the east face of the Snowy Range just north of the Colorado line tested positive for chronic wasting disease. CWD had not previously been found in that hunt area.

“Finding CWD in this hunt area is disappointing but not surprising,” says Bob Lanka, Game and Fish Department Laramie Region wildlife coordinator. “We know that CWD surveys conducted in Colorado have documented the disease just south of the state line. We also know that studies conducted in the area have documented regular deer movements across the state line. Finding this positive simply fills in one of the few remaining gaps between Wyoming and Colorado.”

Samples are being collected at check stations and meat processors statewide to allow the department to monitor distribution and prevalence of the deer and elk disease in Wyoming.

“Our voluntary program is still working well,” says Hank Edwards, wildlife disease specialist in charge of testing and mapping CWD data. “We have received 1,200 samples so far this year. Of those, we have identified 13 positives out of 950 tested. This is the only new area documented so far this year.”

Edwards and his staff tested 74 deer this season from area 76.

Consistent with past procedures, because of this one case, area 76 will be added to the department’s list of areas known to have CWD. Consequently, the G&F recommends that deer hunters transport only the following items from area 76 and other areas where CWD is known to exist: cut and wrapped meat, boned meat, animal quarters or other pieces with no portion of the spinal column or head attached, hides without the head, cleaned skull plates (no meat or nervous tissue attached), antlers with no meat or other tissue attached. The head, spine and other nervous tissue – areas where the abnormal protein or prion causing the disease is found in infected animals — should be left at the site of the kill or disposed of in an approved landfill.

Despite these precautions to aid in preventing the disease from spreading to new areas, there is still no evidence that CWD is a human health risk.

After a review of available scientific data, the World Health Organization in December 1999 stated, “There is currently no evidence that CWD in cervidae (deer and elk) is transmitted to humans.” In a more recent article (2004), Dr. Ermias Belay of the Center for Disease Control said, “The lack of evidence of a link between CWD transmission and unusual cases of CJD, [Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a human prion disease] despite several epidemiologic investigations,…suggest that the risk, if any, of transmission of CWD to humans is low.” Nonetheless to avoid any risk, both organizations say parts or products from any animal that looks sick or tests positive for CWD or other TSEs should not be eaten.

As tests are completed the G&F will keep the public informed of any other cases of CWD found in new hunt areas.