As Chronic Wasting Diseases Spreads Eastward, Hunters, Outfitters, Land Owners and Goverment Biologists Ready To Take Action


Chronic Wasting Disease, a disease similar to so-called "Mad Cow Disease" has been a reality of life for elk and deer in some plains and mountain states and Canadian provinces for several years, but news that CWD has turned up in wild white-tailed deer in southern Wisconsin could mean the malady is heading our way.

The Ind. Div. of Fish and Wildlife has been alerted and Indiana State Veterinarian Dr. Bret D. Marsh and the Indiana State Board of Animal Health banned importation of cervids (deer and relatives) after discovery of CWD in Wisconsin. A sampling program is being developed for Indiana at this time.

However, when it comes to information about CWD, the Indiana State Board of Animal Health appears to have different ideas about the disease than the Wis. Dept. of Natural Resources. Indiana’s animal health experts say that CWD is "unrelated" to Mad Cow Disease which we know can infect humans. Little is known about wasting disease, said the Indiana experts.

But here is what the Wis. DNR has to say about it::

"Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a new disease threat to North American deer populations. CWD is a brain disease related to Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, also known as "Mad Cow Disease." CWD affects elk, mule and white-tailed deer. It has been diagnosed in free-ranging deer and elk primarily in northeastern Colorado/southeastern Wyoming and adjacent Nebraska, but has been found in captive elk in Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Saskatchewan, and South Dakota.

"Researchers are just beginning to understand CWD. CWD appears to be caused by an abnormal protein called a prion. CWD can be spread by close contact between animals, and animals exposed to a CWD-contaminated environment may also become infected. Usually, months to years pass from when the animal is infected to when it shows signs of disease. Classic CWD signs in deer/elk 18 months or older include poor body condition, tremors, stumbling, increased salivation, difficulty swallowing, and excessive thirst or urination. There has been no way to test a live animal for CWD; the brain from a recently dead animal is examined microscopically. Researchers in Colorado are developing a live animal test for deer, using tonsil biopsies," report the Wisconsin experts. See all their data and maps on the internet at:

There is also a statement on the disease from the World Health Organization, regarding CWD and humans: "The World Health Organization has said there is no scientific evidence CWD can infect humans. However, WHO also says no part of a deer or elk with evidence of CWD should be eaten by people or other animals. Over 16 years of monitoring in the infected area in Colorado has found no disease in people or cattle living there."

According to the Badger State DNR, they have been sampling deer for the disease since 1999. Three deer tested positive for it when samples were taken during the 2001 gun deer season. All three came from a deer management area in portions of Dane and Iowa counties in southern Wisconsin. All three deer were bucks, age 6 mos. to three years.

As you might imagine, deer and elk hunters everywhere are concerned, especially those who eat their kill. As a group, hunters know that something like this disease could destroy their sport, and,especially in states like Wisconsin, their way of life.

The corporate deer and elk managers who run "farms" and game "ranches" are just as concerned about the future of their businesses. If CWD were to spread across the country infecting deer everywhere, it would surely gut their captive animal operations and deal a severe blow to the industries that have grown up around deer hunting: archery equipment, firearms, clothing and footwear, hunting scents -- everything associated with the sport. There are millions of dollars at stake, the health of our country’s wildlife, and, maybe, the lives of people who eat deer meat. Money talks, especially to the federal government.

Alarmed that there is a lot of misinformation and concerned that CWD could deliver a death blow to their sport, several of the country’s largest hunting interest groups have allied themselves over the disease.

"Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Boone & Crockett Club, and Mule Deer Foundation have founded the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance and are pooling resources to enhance communication between scientists, wildlife managers, citizens and policy makers. The Pope and Young Club immediately joined the Alliance as a contributing partner," said a news release from the new group.

The groups are supporting a national symposium in Denver, Aug. 6-7, for CWD researchers and members of the media, and funding development of a new Internet site, to be a clearinghouse for accurate and responsible communications about the disease. You can see a photo of a bull elk with CWD there

Dr. Gary Wolfe is the alliance’s coordinator. He represented the alliance May 16 when he testified in a Congressional investigation about possible federal involvement in CWD. He was the only non-government spokesman representing the interests of sportsmen and wildlife enthusiasts, according to the alliance. Wolfe is based at Missoula, Mont.

Efforts to contain or eradicate the disease have so far failed, as the appearance of CWD in Wisconsin testifies. Remember that saying about money talking? According to the alliance’s new release, "federal action is eminent."

© Copyright. 2002. Jordan Communications