Deer disease continues to spread eastward

A map of CWD cases in Kansas. The red dots are the four cases found in whitetail bucks in 2012.

Chronic wasting disease continues to move eastward through the Kansas deer herd, according to Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism biologists. ┬áThe disease is 100-percent fatal to members of the deer family, like white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose. It’s yet to be transferred to humans or livestock.


Shane Hesting, Wildlife and Parks disease biologist, said four more cases have been identified from animals tested in 2012. Most were shot by hunters during fall deer seasons. One each was found in Ellis, Norton, Trego and Sherman counties. It was the first ever found in Ellis County. The first Kansas deer with the disease was found in Cheyenne County in 2005. It’s since been on a steady spread to the east and south.

In 2011 eight positives were found, but Hesting pointed out that was from about 2,500 animals tested. Last year, only about 375 animals were tested because of a lack of federal funds that had helped test more than 20,000 deer over about the past 15 years. To make up for reduced samples the agency is concentrating its testing mostly on mature deer, which have a higher likelihood of contracting the disease than young deer.

The agency will be rotating it’s main sampling area annually, to make sure they get enough samples from a region for a solid evaluation.

The closest infected animal to Wichita was a deer from Stafford County in 2011. An initial report of a positive animal from Sumner County that same year later proved to be a false-positive. To date, 52 animals have tested positive for the disease in Kansas.

This whitetail buck found in Sherman County last October tested positive for CWD. COURTESY PHOTO

CWD was first diagnosed along the border of  Colorado and Wyoming in the mid-1960s, and seemed to begin to spread in the mid-1990s. Some of the spread has been attributed to the transportation of captive deer and elk. Kansas had such an elk test positive in 2001. It came from an infected herd in another state.

The disease has also been found in Wisconsin, Illinois, New York, Missouri and West Virginia. It was discovered in Pennsylvania recently. Biologist think it might be being transported eastward by eastern hunters returning with  carcasses of animals shot in western states. Some states have made it illegal to import anything but the boneless meat and antlers from animals shot in other states.