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From: TSS ()
Subject: State's goal to eliminate MAD deer disease has doubters
Date: July 13, 2005 at 6:26 am PST

State's goal to eliminate deer disease has doubters


Posted: July 12, 2005
Three years into the fight against chronic wasting disease, Wisconsin remains steadfast in the belief that it can eradicate the deer-killing relative of mad cow disease from its borders, a position in sharp contrast with gloomier forecasts from other states.

Chronic Wasting Disease

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"We cannot prevent the spread. We believe you can slow the spread," Terry Kreeger of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department told a crowd of 325 officials Tuesday at the Second International Chronic Wasting Disease Symposium in Madison. Kreeger later added, "my pessimism is limited to the state of Wyoming," though it was a pessimism echoed by officials from New Mexico, Illinois and other states.

Nonetheless, Alan Crossley of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources stuck by the state's position that the disease can be eliminated through a strategy that includes killing off large numbers of deer in a 1,300-square-mile eradication zone in the southwestern part of the state.

"We still honestly believe we have a chance and we're not willing to say it can't be done," said Crossley, the department's project leader for chronic wasting disease.

The symposium was the first since 2002, when chronic wasting disease was first identified in Wisconsin, leaping hundreds of miles from a small cluster of western states.

This year's symposium takes place under a similarly ominous shadow: the appearance of the disease this spring in wild and captive deer in New York state, another leap of hundreds of miles.

The disease, believed to be caused by mutant proteins called prions, drew people from 40 states and as far away as Japan, New Zealand, Norway and Belgium to the symposium at the Monona Terrace convention center.

In Wisconsin, the disease threatens a deer-hunting tradition ingrained in the state's culture and worth an estimated $1 billion to the state's economy. The issue's importance is reflected in the 34 different research projects under way in Wisconsin on chronic wasting disease.

Since the 2002 symposium, remarkable progress has been made in understanding the disease, though many basic questions remain, said keynote speaker Michael Miller, a wildlife veterinarian for Colorado, which has been dealing with the disease since the late 1970s.

Scientists have yet to determine the origin of the disease. Also, though it appears improbable that the disease can be passed to humans or dairy cattle, Miller cautioned that after watching mad cow leap from animals to humans, "I don't think we ever want to say 'Never.' "

He said scientists know more about the manner in which the disease is passed from one animal to another, via fecal matter or oral secretions. It may also be spread via the scavenging of infected carcasses. Infectious prions also persist in the soil.

As representatives from different states and from the Canadian province of Saskatchewan addressed the symposium, it became clear that the disease continues to perplex wildlife officials and scientists.

In Illinois, chronic wasting disease appeared in 2002 and remains in the north central portion of the state, in an area where there is little forest or deer habitat.

Paul Shelton of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources drew chuckles from the audience when he summed up his state's fight against the disease this way: "If the deer would remain stationary. . . . It's going to take a little cooperation from the deer for us to remain optimistic."

In New Mexico, chronic wasting disease was found in deer near the White Sands Missile Range, far from Colorado, where the disease had previously been found. This year, the disease showed up for the first time in one of New Mexico's main deer herds.

"My gut feeling is a lot like Terry (Kreeger)'s . . . one deer moving from one place to another could be enough to spread (the disease)," said Kerry Mower of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. "I don't think we can stop the spread. I think we can slow it."

Describing his state's frustrating experience with chronic wasting disease, Bruce Trindle of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission said, "We drew a line in the sand and dared (the disease) to step over, and it did. . . . In 2004, it jumped across the line again."

From the July 13, 2005, editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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