KAYCEE – A white-tailed buck harvested from deer hunt area 30 and a mule deer buck harvested from deer hunt area 33 both tested positive for chronic wasting disease, a brain disease known to affect some of Wyoming’ s deer and elk herds.
“Although CWD has been found in southeastern Wyoming for a number of years, this is the first time we have found CWD on the east slope of the Big Horn Mountains,” says Warren Mischke, Wyoming Game and Fish Department’ s Sheridan Region information specialist.
Department personnel collected the lymph nodes from the hunter-harvested mule deer on Oct. 24. Personnel in the G&F Laboratory then analyzed the sample and reported the result Nov. 12.
The white-tailed deer was harvested by a hunter on Oct. 22 and taken to a local processing plant. While skinning the animal, G&F dpersonnel noted that it the animal was very thin, and decided to collect the lymph nodes for analysis. Nov. 12 results also revealed this animal as a CWD positive.
“Although we have tested 99 animals from hunt area 33, and 21 from hunt area 30, we may need to collect more deer to learn additional information about the distribution of CWD in and around this new area,” says Dan Thiele, G&F Buffalo biologist in Buffalo. “We take wildlife disease issues seriously. Current research indicates infected animals tend to be found in localized groups, or clusters. Taking 25 to 30 deer out of the immediate area will allow us to see how well established CWD may be in the area, and potentially limit the spread.”
Some hunting seasons are still open, and department officials hope to get more hunter-harvested samples from the area. In deer hunt area 30 the general season for white-tailed deer and limited quota type 6 licenses will continue until Nov. 30. Elk hunt area 34 will be open until Nov. 30 for antlerless and cow calf elk. Although CWD has not been found in elk in the area, CWD impacts elk can become infected with the disease, soand department personnel are interested in obtaining additional hunter-harvested samples from elk as well.
“Hunters can contribute to surveillance efforts by having deer or elk harvested from the area tested for CWD,” said Thiele. “To participate, after harvesting an animala deer or elk, hunters should call their local warden or biologist to allow them to take the lymph nodes, located in the neck of the animal, from the animal to submit for testingtest the animal for CWD.”
Deer hunt areas 30 and 33 will be added to the department’s list of areas known to have CWD. Consequently, tThe G&F recommends that deer and elk hunters transport only the following items from those areas where CWD is known to exist: cut and wrapped meat, boned meat, animal quarters or other pieces with no portion of the spinal column or head attached, hides without the head, cleaned skull plates (no meat or nervous tissue attached), antlers with no meat or other tissue attached. The head, spine and other nervous tissue – areas where the abnormal protein or prion causing the disease is found in infected animals — should be left at the site of the kill or disposed of in an approved landfill. The hunter will need to take the head if he or she would like to have it tested for CWD.
Hank Edwards, wildlife disease specialist in charge of testing and mapping CWD data, reports that his crew has tested lymph nodes from 3,269 hunter-harvested deer and elk this fall. Of those tested, 70 have tested positive for CWD. Two other new CWD areas were discovered earlier this fall,: deer hunt area 76 in the southeast Snowy Range and elk hunt area 125 near Elk Mountain.
Department officials are encouraging residents to avoid feeding big game animals. The discovery of CWD adds to concerns about ramifications of feeding wildlife, since artificial feeding concentrates big game, which increasinges the potential for disease transmission. Despite this warning to aid in preventing the spread of this disease, there is still no evidence that CWD is a human health risk.
After a review of available scientific data, the World Health Organization in December 1999 stated, “There is currently no evidence that CWD in cervidae (deer and elk) is transmitted to humans.” In 2004, Dr. Ermias Belay of the Center for Disease Control said, “The lack of evidence of a link between CWD transmission and unusual cases of CJD, [Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a human prion disease] despite several epidemiologic investigations, suggest that the risk, if any, of transmission of CWD to humans is low.” Nonetheless to avoid any risk, both organizations say parts or products from any animal that looks sick or tests positive for CWD or other TSEs should not be eaten.
As tests are completed the G&F will keep the public informed of any other cases of CWD found in new hunt areas.