PIERRE – With the majority of deer and elk samples from this past fall now tested and returned, the Department of Game, Fish and Parks reports that six more deer have tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).

Of the 1,938 deer and elk sampled for CWD in the past six months, 1,857 test results have been returned. All but 81 samples have been tested and returned. The six positive tests were part of a large number of test results returned the week of January 27.

The positive tests included three male mule deer from West River Deer Unit 327A in Fall River County, a female white-tailed deer from Unit 321A in Custer County, a male white-tailed deer from Unit 321A in Custer County, and a male white-tailed deer from Black Hills Deer Unit 403A in Pennington County.

A previous positive test had been returned from a male white-tailed deer that had been killed along a road within the Rapid City city limits. Twenty-five of the 31 deer samples taken from within the city limits have now been returned with only the one positive result so far. Also, an elk collected by Wind Cave National Park in November had a positive test.

“This sampling process has been an extremely valuable tool in our search for information on the presence of CWD in South Dakota,” Steve Griffin, a big game biologist for Game, Fish and Parks said. “We knew we had CWD in South Dakota going into the past hunting seasons. The information we have gathered through the cooperation of hunters will help shape our approach to this disease.”

From 1997 through June 2002 a total of 1,693 deer and elk were tested resulting in one positive return. That was in 2001 from a white-tailed deer taken by a hunter in West River Deer Unit 327B (Fall River County).

Griffin added that hunters of returned samples have been notified of the outcome of tests on the animal they submitted. “We have notified those who submitted deer that returned a positive test by telephone. The others we have notified by mail.”

Griffin noted that there are still 81 samples to be returned from the testing laboratories. Most of these are from deer and elk submitted in the past few weeks. “We are asking that hunters remain patient. We will get results returned as soon as we can, but it may take as long as 90 days to get those results back. In fact, we have an elk that was taken in late October and sampled that we still do not have results back on.”

Griffin said that of the samples yet to be returned 33 are for elk, 20 are for mule deer, and 28 are for white-tailed deer. “With the close of hunting seasons we are done with sample collection for this season. We will continue to sample suspicious animals that act sickly,” he said.

CWD is a fatal disease that affects white-tailed deer, mule deer and elk. Researchers believe a protein called a “prion” causes it. Prions concentrate where there is a lot of nerve tissue, such as the brain, spinal cord, eyes, lymph nodes and spleen. Prions have not been found in muscle tissue (meat). Health experts have found no evidence that CWD can be passed naturally to humans or to livestock.