- Associated Press - Friday, October 24, 2014

RAWLINS, Wyo. (AP) - Officials at the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s disease laboratory in Laramie say a 4-year-old mule deer buck taken in Carbon County during hunting season tested positive for chronic wasting disease, which is a contagious neurological disorder that is usually fatal to deer, elk and moose.

The disease was found because the agency collects samples through hunter field checks and at sampling stations to determine where the infections occur. More than 4,000 samples are collected annually throughout the state.

Chronic wasting disease causes a spongy degeneration of the brains of infected animals resulting in weight loss and abnormal behavior. There’s no evidence that meat of infected animals can spread the disease to humans, but tests are done as a precaution and to give wildlife managers data on the prevalence of the disease.

Wildlife Disease Specialist Hank Edwards said the disease has a long incubation period of 17 months or longer.

“There can be a very prolonged time before the animal will show any symptoms,” Edwards said. “It can take at least a couple of years. They will have a normal body appearance and act normal. There will be no indication that the animal has CWD. Many times it isn’t until a hunter brings one in for testing that we know for sure.”

Edwards said the total infected population in Carbon County is low, with probably not more than one percent infected, the Rawlins Daily Times reported Friday (http://tinyurl.com/oxr62t2).

Mary Wood, Wyoming’s state wildlife veterinarian, said it is very hard to determine how the disease will affect future populations.

“It is not something that has been well-studied until very recently, but I think right now the jury is out on how the disease will affect population numbers, Wood said.

In 2013, Game and Fish began a multi-year study at its Thorne-Williams Wildlife Research Unit near Wheatland to evaluate a vaccine.

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Information from: Rawlins (Wyo.) Daily Times, http://www.rawlinstimes.com

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