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From: TSS (
Subject: A Spreading Hazard for Deer and Elk (and Hunters) CWD
Date: November 30, 2004 at 12:05 pm PST

A Spreading Hazard for Deer and Elk (and Hunters)


Published: November 30, 2004

With hunting season in full swing, game hunters are anxious to fill
their freezers. But as chronic wasting disease spreads through
populations of deer and elk in some states, hunters are finding that
their quarry may not be safe to eat.

Jim Treat, from Bemidji, Minn., hunts elk in Colorado every year. Last
year he took home an 800-pound buck. But when he sent the meat to the
state wildlife bureau for testing, it came back positive for chronic
wasting disease.

"I kept the meat for six weeks, but I finally threw it away, Mr. Treat
said. "If you know it has the disease, though, it's pretty tough to get
yourself to eat it." No one knows whether the meat is safe to eat. But
the disease is related to mad cow  the fatal brain-wasting ailment that
infected tens of thousands of cattle in Europe  and variant
Creutzfeldt-Jakob, the disease that killed at least 150 humans who ate
infected meat. The disease has an incubation period of at least several
years, so many animals may test positive even if they look healthy. Its
origin and mode of transmission are unknown.

Chronic wasting disease has turned up only in the Midwest and Rocky
Mountain West, but wild animals ignore boundaries, so all 50 states do
the test. Tests are voluntary in most areas, but many more hunters are
now choosing to find out the results. Last year, Colorado had the most
positive cases: 267 out of 16,432 animals tested. Wyoming was the
second-highest, but tested many fewer animals.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that hunters
avoid eating meat from deer, elk and moose that look sick or test
positive for the disease. Still, last years experience hasn't
discouraged Jim Treat from hunting. "I'm heading back to Colorado," he
said. "I'm playing the odds."


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