Chronic wasting disease found in wild deer

Published: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 11:07 a.m. CDT

OTTUMWA (MCT) — Since 2002, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources has collected more than 50,000 samples of captive and wild deer in Iowa in an effort to look for cases of chronic wasting disease. On April 9, they confirmed an infected wild deer had been found in the Hawkeye State for the first time.

The deer was reported as harvested in Allamakee County, in the very northeast tip of the state, during the first shotgun season in early December.

According to Kevin Baskins of the IDNR, it came from an area where there has been extensive testing done on wild deer. He said in 2002 there was a positive test found in Wisconsin, right across the Mississippi River from Allamakee County, and that’s what initially sparked interest in doing tests on wild deer in Iowa.

“Anytime you have one in a bordering state, it raises concern,” he said.

Although this was the first instance of a wild Iowa deer with CWD in Iowa, the IDNR has found infected deer in captivity before. They have discovered nine infected captive deer in Pottawattamie County, one in Cerro Gordo County and three in Davis County.

However, Baskins said, the deer found in both Cerro Gordo and Davis counties were from the same herd at a Cerro Gordo County breeding facility. He said the deer in Davis County were transported to a hunting preserve there without knowing they had been infected with CWD.

Even though this was the first time a wild deer has been found with CWD in Iowa, the disease has been killing deer, moose and elk in other parts of the U.S. for quite some time. The first positive diagnosis was in Colorado in 1967, and since then it has migrated across America by the transportation of captive deer and through natural causes in the wild.

“Although it is new to Iowa, it isn’t new to the U.S.,” Baskins said.

It is a neurological disease that is caused by an abnormal protein in the brain of elk, moose and deer. Essentially, CWD eats holes in the brain of the affected animal and causes disorientation, lethargy and emaciation until the animal dies.

Thankfully, humans are not believed to be able to contract CWD by eating venison, but eating the brain, eyeballs or spinal cord of deer, elk and moose is strongly discouraged. Hunters are also told to wear protective gloves while field dressing game just to be safe.

Anyone who spots a wild or captive deer displaying the symptoms of CWD (excessive thirst, salivation, urination and drooping head and ears) is strongly encouraged to contact IDNR.


©2014 the Ottumwa Courier

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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