PIERRE – South Dakota’s Department of Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) has collected 1900 elk and deer tissue samples this fall and winter in their ongoing testing for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). All samples are from the Black Hills and southwestern part of the state, except for 137 white-tailed deer and one mule deer from McPherson County.

“The Department of Game, Fish and Parks continues to collect and test tissue samples of deer and elk, primarily animals submitted by hunters, in a few hunting units where CWD is felt to most likely exist,” said Game Management Specialist Ron Fowler. “Since testing began in 1997, three South Dakota animals have tested positive for CWD. One animal found was a hunter-killed white-tailed deer in Fall River County in the fall of 2001. The second was a sick elk killed in Wind Cave National Park last November. The third positive test was from a 2-year-old male whitetail from Rapid City. This deer was a road-kill that our contractor picked up within city limits last September.”

The 1900 samples collected include:

584 elk 507 mule deer 809 white-tailed deer As of Jan. 9, results from 557 samples have been received from the labs for:

410 Elk 30 mule deer 117 white-tailed deer “All of these results have tested negative for CWD, except for the one positive that was found in the 2-year-old male whitetail from the Rapid City limits,” Fowler said. “We have collected a total of 31 samples from inside Rapid City, of which 7 results have come back. The one whitetail mentioned above was positive; the other six tested negative. The other white-tailed and mule deer tested so far are mostly from Black Hills units, Custer County and Fall River County youth seasons.”

In response to the CWD-positive elk that Wind Cave officials found in November, GFP officials are interested in the pending results for the other elk samples from that area.

“Below is a summary of test results to-date on elk by unit, and what we should expect for sample sizes based on what has been sent to the lab in Laramie or Fort Collins:

Unit 402- 142 negative samples out of 186 samples collected. Unit 403- 101 negative samples out of 190 samples collected. Unit 404- 37 negative samples out of 47 samples collected. Custer State Park – 82 negative samples out of 88 samples collected. “All of the above units surround Wind Cave National Park,” Fowler added. “This past year, we sampled one other elk from Wind Cave in addition to the CWD-positive one, and this one tested negative.”

Chronic wasting disease is a fatal brain disease of deer and elk that is believed to be caused by an abnormal protein called a prion. Animals infected with CWD show progressive loss of weight and body condition, behavioral changes, excessive salivation, increased drinking and urination, depression, loss of muscle control and eventual death. Chronic wasting disease is always fatal for the afflicted animal. The disease can not be diagnosed by observation of physical symptoms because many big game diseases affect animals in similar ways. The origin and transmission of this disease among deer and elk is not well understood. Public health officials have found no scientific evidence that CWD can be naturally transmitted to humans, or to animals other than deer and elk.

For available information on chronic wasting disease, see the Game, Fish and Parks website at www.state.sd.us/gfp/hunting/BigGame/CWD.htm.

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