OLYMPIA – Washington residents heading out of state to hunt deer and elk in areas affected by chronic wasting disease (CWD) are reminded to have their game processed before bringing it back home.

As they did last year, state wildlife managers are urging the precaution to reduce the risk of introducing CWD into this state. Specifically, hunters are advised to have their out-of-state deer or elk carcasses boned out, cut and wrapped before bringing the game back home. Hides and antlers may be brought back to the state, but hides must be scraped clean of tissue and if the antlers are attached to the skull plate, the skull plate should be thoroughly cleaned of tissue.

“We look to hunters to work with us in the effort to keep chronic wasting disease out of this state,” said Dave Ware, game manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). He noted that each year tens of thousands of Washingtonians head out of state to hunt.

Besides the precautions for out-of-state game, hunter cooperation is vital in state efforts to monitor native deer and elk for the disease, Ware noted. Since no live-animal test is feasible at this time, WDFW collects tissue samples from hunter-harvested animals for CWD testing. This fall, some 1,000 deer and elk will be sampled. Already, WDFW has tested 1,557 deer and elk for CWD in the past two years, with 898 samples taken last year and 659 collected in 2001. All the samples tested negative for the disease.

Chronic wasting disease so far has not been detected in Washington, Oregon or Idaho. However, a dozen other states, including Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, and Utah and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, have found the disease in free-ranging or farmed whitetail deer, mule deer or elk.

Washington is considered a low-risk state for chronic wasting disease because the state is geographically removed from areas where the disease has been detected and because game farming was banned here a decade ago. Although scientists do not fully understand how chronic wasting disease is transmitted, it is believed the transport of animals for game farming may have played a role in spreading the disease in other states. Chronic wasting disease, a disease of the central nervous system which causes deer and elk to waste away and eventually die, is believed to be caused by an abnormal prion protein. There is no known vaccine or cure.

The disease is a form of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). Other TSEs include bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as mad cow disease, in cattle, scrapie in domestic sheep and goats and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. Currently, there is no documented evidence of humans contracting a TSE disease from eating the meat of infected deer or elk.

For more information on chronic wasting disease and WDFW’s monitoring efforts check the department’s website at www.wa.gov/wdfw/wlm/cwd/index.htm on the Internet.

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