LUSK/MOORCROFT – Chronic wasting disease has been found in the Black Hills, but the only real news is that it took so long to show up.

Two mule deer and a white-tailed deer have tested positive for chronic wasting disease in three new hunt areas. One of those animals came from Skull Creek in Hunt Area 6 in the Black Hills. The second was discovered in the Thunder Basin National Grasslands along Buffalo Creek in Hunt Area 8. While the third, collected in Lusk, was in Hunt Area 13.

CWD, a fatal brain disease that affects mule deer, white-tailed deer and elk, was originally documented in southeast Wyoming and northeast Colorado. In 2001, it was found in the Black Hills of South Dakota and Sioux County, Neb.

“We have verified the disease in the Black Hills,” said Joe Sandrini, the G&F’s Newcastle wildlife biologist. “We are actually surprised it took so long. We know there is a lot of interchange among deer from Wyoming, South Dakota and Nebraska.”

The deer collected in the Hunt Areas 6 and 8 were actually suspected of having another, unrelated disease. Epizootic hemorrhagic disease is a common, yet fatal viral illness spread by gnats. An outbreak was expected this year because conditions were perfect for the mud-loving insects: a cool, wet spring followed by a hot, dry summer.

Indeed, a moderate number of deer have died in parts of northeast Wyoming. However, the disease seems to be winding down with the arrival of cool weather. It does not affect humans or livestock.

The G&F may collect more deer in these new areas to learn additional information about the distribution of CWD. This information, along with check station data, will be used to determine if future action is necessary.

In the meantime, G&F employees will be collecting CWD samples at selected meat processors and check stations across the state the first few days of deer seasons. Please get your deer tested if it’s killed in any of the new Hunt Areas. More samples are especially needed from deer taken in and around Lusk. Landowners are also asked to report dead or sick-looking deer.

The World Health Organization says there is no evidence that CWD in deer and elk is transmitted to humans, but they further state no part or product of any animal with evidence of CWD should be fed to any species (human or any domestic or captive animal).