March 11, 2003
Tom Farrell, 605/745-1130
Officials at Wind Cave National Park announced Tuesday that two free-ranging deer in the park tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). One deer was part of a recently begun 3-year study into CWD prevalence rates in the park. The other deer was tested after dying from a motor vehicle accident.
The park’s CWD study calls for 40 deer to be captured, tested, and fitted with radio collars. Twenty-nine deer were captured on February 20 and 21 when the study began. Twenty deer tested negative for CWD, one tested positive, and the other eight samples did not contain enough tissue for diagnostic testing. One animal died during capturing operations. The deer that tested positive will be located and euthanized to reduce the risk of disease transmission.
The second CWD positive sample came from a deer killed by a car. Tissue samples were collected on February 26 and, along with the samples collected from the study, sent to the Colorado State University Diagnostic Lab in Fort Collins for analysis. Since 1998, any park deer or elk exhibiting signs of CWD, along with road-killed deer and elk, have been tested for CWD.
Resource Management Specialist Dan Roddy said, “This study will help us learn the prevalence rate for CWD in the park’s deer herd along with movement patterns in and out of the park. We hope to test and radio collar the study’s remaining twelve animals within the next few weeks.”
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. Disease transmission routes are unknown at this time, although there is no evidence suggesting it can be transmitted to humans.