LINCOLN, Neb. – Officials with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission reported that two deer harvested in the Panhandle during the 2002 hunting season have tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD), but they expressed optimism at the low rate of infection.

Bruce Morrison, a Commission biologist charged with monitoring the disease, said that of 1,904 results received back from the University of Nebraska- Lincoln Diagnostic Veterinary Laboratory, only two tested positive, both in endemic areas where the disease is known to be present.

“First and foremost, we are very encouraged that no CWD-positive animals have been found outside of the Panhandle,” Morrison said. “All results from central and eastern Nebraska were negative, and that is a big relief because we have not tested in those areas in the past. And in the Panhandle, which includes our two endemic areas, we only had two positives out of 753 animals tested from that region. So that tells us that the prevalence is very low.”

Both animals testing positive were bucks thought to be between two and three years old. One was harvested in extreme southwest Kimball County about a mile from both the Colorado and Wyoming borders. That area yielded the fist CWD positive animal in 2000, and four since. The other positive animal was harvested in northwest Sioux County, not far from a captive game ranch that was found to have a high rate of infection among captive animals. It has since been depopulated.

The Commission has contacted one hunter who harvested an infected animal and is continuing to attempt to contact the other. Hunters who submitted deer heads for testing and whose results were returned negative will begin receiving notices in the mail over the next few days.

The Commission collected more than 4,000 heads during the recent seasons. Results for more than 2,000 are still pending.