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Posted on Tue, Feb. 21, 2006

State finds no disease in 51 deer


The Wichita EagleNo new cases of chronic wasting disease were found in a recent test done on 51 northwest Kansas deer.
The deer were shot by Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks biologists Feb. 13-14, within a 15-mile radius of where a Cheyenne County whitetail doe -- which tested positive for the disease -- was killed by a hunter late last year.
"That's very good news," said Bob Mathews, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks information and education chief.
If widespread in Kansas, some fear chronic wasting disease could deplete localized deer populations, cripple Kansas' deer hunting industry or spread to commercial deer and elk operations.
Last year's infected doe was the first case of the disease detected in a wild Kansas animal. A farm-raised elk imported from Colorado to Kansas tested positive in 2001.
The disease was first diagnosed in deer and elk herds on both sides of the Colorado-Wyoming border in the 1960s. Though the disease has never been documented in humans or livestock, its close resemblance to mad cow disease often causes concern.
During the past several years chronic wasting disease has gradually moved onto the Plains, but has also popped up in New York and several other eastern states.
Colorado and Nebraska have had CWD cases on their prairies for several years, including some not far from Cheyenne County, in extreme northwest Kansas.
Kansas first started testing for CWD in 1996, relying on tissue removed from deer taken by hunters. About 7,500 deer have been tested since, including about 1,900 during the 2005-06 seasons.
Mathews said the biologists concentrated their sampling on deer 1 ½ years and older, since the disease takes time to develop within an animal. Bucks and does were shot for the study. The carcasses of the 51 tested animals were disposed of at the Cheyenne County landfill.
"For the sake of not spreading the disease, we needed to dispose of them where we could bury them quickly," Mathews said. "That takes some place like a landfill."
Mathews said the department was pleased with the cooperation it received from Cheyenne County residents after the planned testing was announced Feb. 2. He said about 85 percent of the contacted landowners allowed access, so the deer could be killed for sampling.
He also said it was too early to know if any changes would be made in the state's CWD sampling program in coming years.
"We're not sure how we're going to tweak the monitoring process, both in that vicinity and the rest of the state," Mathews said. "I'm sure it will be discussed at the next (Kansas Wildlife and Parks) commission meeting or two."

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