July 24, 2003
Tom Farrell, 605/745-1130
Two deer recently found dead in or near Wind Cave National Park tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). Lymph node samples submitted to the Colorado State University Diagnostic Lab in Fort Collins confirmed the diagnoses.
Since early July, the carcasses of three female mule deer have been found in or near the park. The first was in the park’s northeast corner, the second in the park’s campground, and the third along Highway 385 just west of the park. Superintendent Linda L. Stoll said, “We received word Wednesday that two of the deer tested positive for CWD. The third carcass was too badly decomposed to be tested.”
All three animals were part of a three-year CWD study at Wind Cave National Park and had tested negative for disease when they were captured and fitted with radio collars last winter.
This study aims to test for CWD in the park’s deer herd and to learn more about deer movement patterns and density levels within the park. The study is being conducted by South Dakota State University (SDSU) in Brookings in cooperation with Wind Cave National Park and South Dakota Game Fish and Parks.
Since 1998, forty-three deer and five elk in the park have been tested for CWD. Of those totals, four deer and one elk have tested positive for this disease. CWD is similar to mad cow disease and thought to be caused by a “prion” or abnormal protein particle.
Clinical symptoms of this fatal disease include loss of body condition and weight, excessive salivation, ataxia, and behavioral changes. How the disease is transmitted is unknown, although at this time there is no evidence CWD can be transmitted to humans.