WORLAND— Hunters keeping track of where Chronic Wasting Disease has been discovered can now add another Big Horn Basin deer hunt area to their list—Fifteen Mile or deer hunt area 125.

A mature male mule deer, harvested along Gooseberry Creek southwest of Worland, tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD), a fatal wildlife brain disease that can affect all members of Wyoming’s deer family. CWD had not previously been detected in this area, although it has been detected in adjacent hunt areas.

Cody Region wildlife management coordinator Kevin Hurley received confirmation of the positive test on November 23. The lymph nodes were collected from the deer November 15 as part of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s CWD surveillance effort.

“This is the second new area we have been informed of in as many weeks,” Hurley said. “The previous positive came from deer hunt area 122, near Lovell.”

In an effort to manage the spread of CWD and to understand how widespread it might be in an area, the Department considers taking aggressive actions when cases are found in new areas. “While this discovery does concern the Department, due to the location of this latest positive, we feel this is just a normal extension of the disease from areas to the south. With this in mind, it is our recommendation that we not initiate any additional sampling or removal of deer in this area,” said Scott Talbott, the Department’s Assistant Wildlife Division Chief.

Deer hunt area 125 will be added to the Department’s list of areas known to have CWD. The Department recommends that deer hunt area 125 hunters transport only the following items: 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. Rubber or latex gloves should be worn when field dressing any animal and during butchering.

Although CWD has been diagnosed in some wild deer, elk, and moose in 10 states and two Canadian provinces, there is no confirmed link between CWD and any human illness.

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 epidemiological investigations, suggest that the risk, if any, of transmission of CWD to humans is low.” Nonetheless to avoid risk, both organizations say parts or products from any animal that looks sick and/or tests positive for CWD should not be eaten.

Cody region personnel have collected over 1,100 samples so far this year. Chronic wasting disease is now found in seven deer hunt areas in the Big Horn Basin (Areas 37, 41, 120, 122, 125, 127, and 164). For more information on chronic wasting disease visit the Game and Fish website.

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