Chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been found in a deer killed 25 miles from Yellowstone National Park.
This marks the closest the disease has been found to Yellowstone, according to the Jackson Hole News & Guide.
Wyoming Game and Fish Department officials report a buck whitetail deer taken from area 112 tested positive for the disease. The killing happened November 1, near the South Fork of the Shoshone River. Area 112 is in a known migration corridor for mule deer coming to Grand Teton National Park in the summer. Although the deer was found 25 miles away, area 112’s western border is a mere 10 miles from the Park. From the JHN&G:
Given occurrences of CWD in deer hunt areas not far to the east, the new detection of the degenerative malady wasn’t surprising to Game and Fish wildlife disease specialist Hank Edwards.
“We do see, at least in some of our areas, that CWD kind of follows some of the drainages,” Edwards said. “That’s not true exclusively, but in some instance we do see that.”
CWD causes lethargy, listlessness and eventual death as neurological function declines. It’s uncanny watching an animal with CWD as they often become zombie-like, trotting around in set patterns, even exuding a rotten meat smell. CWD is similar to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, mad cow disease). Besides deer, it’s transmissible to elk and moose.
Park biologist P.J. White has spoken in the past about CWD in Yellowstone. In July, at a National Academies of Science conference in Bozeman, speaking about brucellosis (a debilitating cattle disease carried in bison that drives, in large part, bison management) White discussed the potential for CWD to infiltrate the Park—if it hasn’t already, although White added CWD has not been detected in Yellowstone National Park.
In the meantime, the discovery has redoubled efforts from Wyoming Game and Fish to detect and subsequently contain CWD. It has also drawn commentary over alternate forms of management. From the JHN&G:
One Jackson Hole conservationist who has tracked the expansion of CWD for years said the new detections give impetus to having an “appropriate” management plan in place.
“There are tools in the tool box that could have been used years ago to mitigate the impacts of CWD,” said Lloyd Dorsey, the Sierra Club’s Wyoming conservation director, “such as the conservation of predators throughout the state of Wyoming.”
Establishing regulations that prohibit backyard feeding and phasing out winter elk feedgrounds are two other tools that could be employed, Dorsey said.