REGINA – Chronic wasting disease appears to be spreading in the province’s wild deer population. Eighteen new cases have been found with roughly half of the tests for the year completed.

Saskatchewan Environment spokesperson Joe Warbeck is worried because they’ve found more cases this year than in all previous years of testing combined. His department has been testing for the disease in wild deer since 1997 and have found a total of 12 cases to the end of 2002.

This past year Saskatchewan hunters turned in about 4,700 heads from deer killed this fall and winter, about half of which have been tested. The only way to confirm CWD infections is by testing brain matter in dead animals.

With most of the new cases coming from deer killed near Swift Current, Warbeck says positive tests are nevertheless coming from a wider region, which suggests the disease is spreading.

“The question is: What are we going to do about it? My answer right now is: We don’t know what we are going to do about it because we don’t have all the results yet,” Warbeck said.

Warbeck says they’ll decide on a strategy to combat the disease when they get those results. Those are expected by the end of January.

The provincial government says CWD poses no risk to people, or traditional livestock.

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