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From: TSS ()
Subject: CWD SPREADS IN WYOMING WITH 116 NEW CASES -- 88 mule deer, 13 white-tailed deer and 15 elk
Date: December 28, 2006 at 11:37 am PST

Disease spreads east of Sundance, to Muddy Gap
Star-Tribune correspondent Thursday, December 28, 2006

Two deer hunting areas and two elk areas have joined Wyoming’s list of areas where chronic wasting disease has been detected.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department, after its fourth year of chronic wasting surveillance, has added deer hunt area 4 east of Sundance, deer hunt area 11 in Niobrara and Weston counties and elk hunt areas 16 and 22 in northern Carbon County -- all adjacent to areas where the disease had been previously detected.

Chronic wasting disease is a fatal neurological disease that affects deer, elk and moose. Animals show no signs of illness throughout much of the disease’s course. In terminal stages, animals typically are emaciated and display abnormal behavior. There is no confirmed link between chronic wasting and any human illness.

The spread of the disease this year has been more incremental -- not the big jump represented by discovery of the disease in three hunting areas around Thermopolis and on the Wind River Indian Reservation last year.

Game and Fish personnel collected 4,653 deer, elk and moose samples in 2006. Of those, 116 animals tested positive for chronic wasting -- 88 mule deer, 13 white-tailed deer and 15 elk.

“We’re concerned that CWD continues to spread to new parts of the state, but it’s not a surprise that CWD was found in these areas,” said Scott Talbott, assistant wildlife division chief with Game and Fish. “It has previously been found in hunt areas adjacent to these new areas... We plan to continue monitoring the disease throughout the state in future years.”

Lloyd Dorsey, a Jackson-based representative of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, expressed relief that the disease hadn’t extended farther into western Wyoming, but said this was no time for Wyoming to relax.

“This is an excellent opportunity to start phasing out the elk feedgrounds, so that when chronic wasting disease does reach western Wyoming, it won’t decimate those elk herds,” Dorsey said.

Some conservationists worry that the feedgrounds constitute a breeding ground for disease, keeping herds continually infected with brucellosis. The arrival of a fatal disease such as chronic wasting, they say, would spell disaster for wildlife that frequent those feedgrounds.

Game and Fish officials say closing feedgrounds would result in the deaths of large numbers of elk and that the threat of chronic wasting doesn't justify such closures.

Approved this year, the Wyoming Game and Fish plan for the management of chronic wasting does not call for closure of feedgrounds, but does ban private feeding of wildlife, noting that “there is evidence that CWD is more efficiently transmitted when animals are concentrated.”

The plan’s response to the arrival of the disease on the feedgrounds of northwest Wyoming would be to intensively monitor the wildlife population; remove those that appear to be sick; maximize the area of feeding to reduce animal-to-animal contact; reduce the number of feeding days to disperse the elk; and take any other actions to decrease elk concentration, consistent with other necessary wildlife management needs and feedground practices.

Samples were collected this year by Game and Fish personnel at hunter check stations and meat processors throughout the state as well as road-killed animals and targeted animals showing signs of the disease. Hunters participating in the surveillance program could check the results of their sample by accessing the department’s Web site, and hunters whose deer or elk tested positive were notified individually by mail.

The department also notified other state wildlife agencies by mail if hunters from their states harvested animal testing positive.

Game and Fish began testing moose for chronic wasting last year. In 2006, the department tested 36 moose -- none of which tested positive for the disease.


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