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Chronic Wasting Disease Now Detected in Yellowstone Park

Unfortunately, chronic wasting disease (CWD) is continuing to slowly spread through the United States and Canada. It has now been confirmed that a mule deer died of CWD in Yellowstone Park last month.

Chronic wasting disease has been slowly spreading in mule deer and elk in Wyoming since first detected in1985. It has been detected in 30 states so far!

CWD is a prion disease that can occcur in cervids (deer, elk, moose, reindeer) similar to "mad cow disease" (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) in cattle and Creutzfeldt-Jakob's disease in humans. It is an always fatal neurologic disease . There is no vaccine, treatment, or cure for the disease.

CWD should be of concern to all hunters or people who eat wild-caught game (deer, elk, moose, reindeer). So far no infections have been found in humans, but health officials urge hunters to test killed deer and elk for the disease, and to avoid eating meat from infected animals.

Excerpts from the National Park Service Nov. 15 news release: Mule deer tests positive for chronic wasting disease in Yellowstone National Park

 Yellowstone National Park and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) recently confirmed the presence of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in the carcass of an adult mule deer buck found near Yellowstone Lake in the southeastern section of the park. This is the first confirmed positive detection of the disease in Yellowstone National Park. The mule deer buck was originally captured by WGFD staff near Cody, Wyoming, in March 2023 as part of a population dynamics study and fitted with a GPS collar. The collar signaled the animal died mid-October 2023. .... The samples tested positive for CWD based on multiple diagnostic tests performed at WGFD’s Wildlife Health Laboratory.

What is chronic wasting disease?

    • CWD is a contagious, fatal disease of deer, elk and moose caused by a malformed protein (prion) for which there is no vaccine or known treatment.
    • The malformed prion protein accumulates in the brain and other tissues causing physiological and behavioral changes, emaciation and death.
    • Signs of CWD include listlessness, weight loss, increased drinking and urinating, excessive drooling and head lowering.
    • It is transmitted by direct animal-to-animal contact or indirectly through contact with infectious particles persisting in the environment such as feces, soil or vegetation.
    • Since the mid-1980s, CWD has spread across Wyoming and is now found in most of the state.
    • About 10-15% of the mule deer near Cody, Wyoming, that migrate into the southeast portion of Yellowstone during summer months are estimated to have CWD.
    • The long-term effect of CWD on deer, elk and moose in the Yellowstone area is uncertain.

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