Some important things Kansas deer hunters need to know about chronic wasting disease before the firearms season opens Wednesday. Information comes from Shane Hesting, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism wildlife disease coordinator.
▪ Chronic wasting disease is 100-percent fatal in members of the deer family, which includes white-tailed and mule deer, elk and moose. It has not been known to spread to humans or livestock. Such a jump could happen, though. It is a close relative of mad cow disease.
▪ CWD was first identified in captive mule deer along the Colorado-Wyoming border in 1967. The disease began after the deer were exposed to scrapie, a disease that’s fatal to sheep and goats.
▪ The first Kansas CWD deer was detected in 2005, in the northwestern part of the state.
▪ Kansas has had 136 deer or elk test positive for CWD. Rawlins and Sheridan counties, in northwest Kansas, have held 80 percent of the cases
▪ One deer in south-central Kansas — Stafford County (2011) — has tested positive. More testing in the region during the 2014-15 seasons found no other positives.
▪ The disease has a pattern of steadily moving south and east from northwest Kansas, where up to 20 percent of some localized populations of adult deer have CWD.
▪ Testing began in Kansas in 1996. Annual sample sizes have been as high as more than 2,000 when funding was good.
▪ During this year’s deer season, Wildlife and Parks plans to sample 460 deer in their eastern testing zone. That’s roughly the eastern third of Kansas and includes Elk, Greenwood and Chautauqua counties. Taxidermists and department biologists will remove the lymph glands needed.
▪ Those who encounter a deer that appears sick should contact local biologists, game warders or Hesting at 316-342-0658, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
▪ Hunters outside the eastern zone, or after the area’s quota is filled, can pay to have their deer tested if they live outside this year’s testing area. The cost is $23.75 at a Kansas State University laboratory. Interested hunters can contact Hesting to find someone to remove the needed samples. Results can often be known within a week.
▪ The disease has been identified in 24 states and two Canadian provinces. It’s within all states that border Kansas and has been detected in all parts of Nebraska.
▪ CWD is to blame for drastic population decline in a Wyoming region. Biologists predict extinction of deer in that area within 48 years, under current management levels. That area has had CWD for about 50 years
▪ Only deer 2 1/2 years and older, are tested because it normally takes the disease that long to develop in animals. Bucks seem to be more prone to the disease than does.
▪ Hunters should avoid consuming parts of the deer where CWD is primarily found, notably any part of the nervous system, including the brains. It has been detected in muscle tissue. Hunters are advised to not eat deer known to have the disease, though many probably have, unknowingly.
▪ CWD is spread among deer by body fluids such as saliva. Though legal in Kansas, Hesting discourages feeding deer because it makes it easier for deer to exchange fluids.
▪ Hunters can help by not transporting deer from one region to another. Discarding the bones, brains or skeleton of an infected deer into an area can introduce CWD. It can stay within the soil for many years. It’s believed that’s how CWD was transported to places such as New York and West Virginia. An isolated area with a 20-percent infection rate was discovered last year in Arkansas, about 100 miles from southeast Kansas.
▪ Kansas hunters can process their animals in the area where they’re shot. If proof of species or gender is required, they can register their deer at ksoutdoors.com before field processiing.