Monday, January 21, 2008

KANSAS NEWS: More CWD Found Near Nebraska Border

Three Decatur County white-tailed deer have tested positive for chronic wasting disease, a discovery that comes on the heels of a similar discovery just a couple miles across the border in Nebraska.

The announcement concerning the positive tests was made Friday afternoon.

The Nebraska discovery prompted Kansas wildlife officials to accelerate the testing process for deer killed in northwest Kansas. Testing still remains to be done on about two-thirds of the samples collected during the state deer seasons, most of the samples coming during the firearms season, according to Mike Miller, a spokesman for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.

The hunters who shot the animals and provided samples to KDWP have been notified of the test results, he said.

This is the second time chronic wasting disease -- transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, similar to mad cow disease -- has been found in free-ranging deer in northwest Kansas, the first coming in December 2005 when a white-tailed deer from Cheyenne County tested positive for CWD.

Although there is no evidence CWD is a threat to humans, officials suggest any exposure to infected animals be minimized.

The deer that tested positive all were killed by hunters along Sappa Creek in central Decatur County, north of Oberlin. The Nebraska deer that tested positive was killed along Beaver Creek in Red Willow County about 2 miles north of the Kansas border.

Beaver Creek runs through about 10 miles of northwest Decatur County, while the more than 20-mile stretch of Sappa Creek virtually bisects the county. Sappa Creek passes through Oberlin, the county seat.

The positive results were made by the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, after initial screening tests were positive at Kansas State University.

Because of the Decatur County discovery, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks will be implementing its chronic wasting disease contingency plan, which will prompt a series of events similar to what took place in Cheyenne County in early 2006 after the first free-ranging case of CWD was discovered.

That likely will include a public meeting in Oberlin, Miller said, as well as sampling deer in the county.

In the case of Cheyenne County, KDWP employees converged on the area, going afield after dark to sample the deer herd there.

Ultimately, 51 deer were killed in that case, and samples were taken to determine if other deer were suffering from CWD. No samples tested positive.

KDWP had been planning on sampling the Decatur County deer herd in the wake of the Nebraska discovery but had been expecting to perhaps take a slightly smaller number of deer. KDWP and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission still are planning a joint effort.

That sampling is expected to take place sometime in February and likely will include both the Beaver and Sappa Creek areas. KDWP already had started obtaining permission from landowners along Beaver Creek to shoot deer.

Miller said no timetable has been set for either the public meeting or when agency personnel will go afield to sample deer.

Although Miller said he was unsure when the deer were taken, he's assuming they came from the state firearms season -- primarily because that's when most of the deer in the state are killed. Tissue samples from 2,200 deer have been submitted for testing.

The discovery of CWD-infected deer in Decatur County didn't come as a big surprise to game officials, primarily because it appears where deer concentrate.

"We're pretty sure deer-to-deer contact is a way to spread the disease," Miller said.


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