White-tailed deer taken in Decatur County Nov. 7; complete results due in spring The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) has announced the first confirmed case of chronic wasting disease (CWD) found in a deer taken during a 2010 deer season. The animal was the only one of 90 tested by KDWP as of Dec. 8 to show a “presumptive positive” result. Samples of deer tissue taken by KDWP are sent to the K-State Diagnostic Veterinary Lab in Manhattan for preliminary testing. If the K-State lab determines the sample is a presumptive positive, the sample is then sent to the National Veterinary Services Lab in Ames, Iowa, for confirmation.
This deer was a 3 ½-year-old male taken in Decatur County by an archery hunter on Nov. 7. Because samples from the January whitetail antlerless only seasons have yet to be collected, complete results of testing won’t be available until March. Last year, 2,738 animals were tested for CWD, including 17 elk, 289 mule deer, and 2,428 white-tailed deer, and four unknown species. Of those samples, 15 were confirmed positive.
Annual testing is part of ongoing effort by KDWP to monitor the prevalence and spread of CWD. The fatal disease was first detected in a wild deer taken in Cheyenne County in 2005. Three infected deer were taken in Decatur County in 2007, 10 tested positive in 2008, and 15 in 2009, all in northwest Kansas.
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. An animal may carry the disease without outward indication but in the later stages, signs may include behavioral changes such as decreased interactions with other animals, listlessness, lowering of the head, weight loss, repetitive walking in set patterns, and a lack of response to humans. Anyone who discovers a sick or suspect deer should contact the nearest KDWP office.
There is no vaccine or other biological method that prevents the spread of CWD. However, there is no evidence that CWD in the natural environment poses a risk to humans or livestock. Still, precautions should be taken. Hunters are advised not to eat meat from animals known to be infected, and common sense precautions are advised when field dressing and processing meat from animals taken in areas where CWD is found. More information on CWD can be found on KDWP’s website, www.kdwp.state.ks.us or at the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance website, www.cwd-info.org