January 17, 2003
Tom Farrell, 605/745-1130
A three-year study to determine if Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is present in Wind Cave National Park’s deer herd is set to begin at the end of the month. Park officials announced today that depending on weather conditions and equipment availability, capturing operations are scheduled to begin around January 28. The park hopes to capture 40 deer and test for CWD before fitting the animals with radio collars and releasing them back into the park.
Capturing operations will be done with net guns fired from a helicopter. As a safety measure, park roads NPS 5 and 6 will be closed during this operation, which could take several days to complete.
Resource Management Specialist Dan Roddy said, “This study, which is being conducted by a graduate student from SDSU, will help us answer questions about CWD and its potential impact on area ungulates.”
Related to mad cow disease, CWD is believed to only affect deer and elk, and it is thought to be caused by an abnormal protein called a prion that attacks the animal’s brain tissue. Symptoms include the loss of body condition and weight, excessive salivation, ataxia, and behavioral changes. How the disease is transmitted is unknown at this time.
The study at Wind Cave will improve knowledge of movement patterns and deer density levels within the park and study the potential of park deer to transmit CWD to other areas. This study is being conducted in cooperation with South Dakota Game Fish and Parks and South Dakota State University in Brookings.