LINCOLN, Neb. – An adult male white-tailed deer harvested by a hunter during the November firearm season has tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD), the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission reported today.
The buck was shot on Cornhusker Wildlife Management Area, located about 4 miles northwest of Grand Island, marking the eastern-most point a deer has tested positive for the disease in Nebraska. Preliminary tests results received earlier in the week indicated the presence of the disease. A secondary test conducted at the University of Wyoming confirmed the initial results.
Previously, the disease had not been found in animals outside of the Panhandle region, where the disease was first detected in the state in 2000, said Jim Douglas, Wildlife Administrator for the Commission.
“This will prompt us to change the manner in which we monitor for the disease in that management unit and seek additional samples,” Douglas. The deer was shot in the Buffalo Unit.
Following the positive result, biologists will undertake a culling operation in the immediate area of Cornhusker WMA, with a goal of collecting an additional 50 deer samples.
Additionally, the Commission will ask muzzleloader and late season firearm deer hunters (January 1-9, 2005) to assist in the effort by voluntarily submitting the heads of deer taken within a 30-mile radius of Grand Island. Hunters may leave the heads at the following check stations: Aurora, Central City, Clay Center, Grand Island, Hastings, Kearney and St. Paul. Collection of additional heads will begin Monday.
Test results from 5,800 deer previously collected in the state should be completed within a few weeks. Hunters whose deer test positive will be notified by telephone. Those whose deer tested negative will be notified by mail.
CWD is a brain-degenerating disease that has been found in a limited number of wild and captive deer and elk in Nebraska and some surrounding states. It has not been found to infect humans, but hunters are advised to avoid eating the brain and spinal columns of animals.
Scientists have not yet determined what causes the disease, but it has been linked to a mutated protein, known as prion. Also unclear is how the disease spreads from animal to animal, but direct animal-to-animal contact is believed to play a role.
CWD was first identified in deer at a captive research facility at Colorado State University in the late 1960s. It was later found in wild populations in northeast Colorado and later in Southeast Wyoming. It was first detected in Nebraska in Kimball County in 2000.