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One topic of concern is chronic wasting disease and its slow spread throughout the US and Canada. Now found in 30 states! Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a prion disease that has no cure and is always fatal. It is similar to mad cow disease, but this fatal neurological disease occurs in cervids, such as deer, elk, and moose.

Recently, The Atlantic had an article about the spread of chronic wasting disease, and how it could ultimately result in the extinction of deer in the US. Some estimates already have the deer population down several million (for several reasons, not just CWD). Or perhaps deer populations will get decimated, with only some deer living and reproducing until the age of 2, and then dying.

This is because the disease can be transmitted before symptoms appear. It takes a while (more than a year) for a deer to show symptoms and die, and it can be passed to newborn fawns from the mother deer when she uses her tongue to groom the newborn.

Incredibly, the disease particles are shed into the environment (e.g., from deer feces) and stay in the soil for at least a decade. It can even be taken up by plants (thus it's in the leaves that deer eat) from the soil.

And yes, if you're wondering, scientists are very concerned that some day this incurable prion disease can make the jump to humans. So far it hasn't, but this is one reason why hunters are told to bring in deer heads for testing (and definitely to not eat deer meat until results come back negative).  Unfortunately, many people resist believing that there is a problem, and testing efforts vary from state to state.

Excerpts from The Atlantic: An Incurable Disease Is Coming for Deer

Jorge is leading a multiyear study at the University of Georgia on chronic wasting disease, an always-fatal neurological illness. Ubiquitous deer may be, but in CWD, they face a serious threat. From its first appearance in Colorado in the late 1960s, CWD has crawled steadily across the country. It is now found in more than 30 states and multiple Canadian provinces. ...continue reading "Deer Population Could Decline From Chronic Wasting Disease"

Finally, a study with results that are totally obvious to people living in areas with lots of deer. Researchers say that adopting permanent year-round daylight savings time would extend the hours of daylight, and in doing so would reduce the number of deer-vehicle collisions. Of course.

The Univ. of Washington researchers found that deer-vehicle collisions are 14 times more likely shortly after dark than before. Collisions with deer increase by 16% in the week after clocks change in the fall.

They estimate that permanent daylight savings time would probably prevent an estimated 36,550 deer deaths, 33 human deaths, 2054 human injuries, and about $1.2 billion in costs each  year. This is because the skies would be brighter later into the evening.

On the other hand, they predict permanent standard time would result in an increase in deer-vehicle collisions, and more deaths, more injuries, and cost more money.

From Science Daily: Permanent daylight saving time would reduce deer-vehicle collisions, study shows

In much of the United States, there is a twice-yearly shift in timekeeping between standard time and daylight saving time, or DST, which delays both sunrise and sunset to make mornings darker and evenings brighter. Recently, scientists, policy experts, lawmakers and citizens have debated abandoning the twice-a-year switch and adopting either year-round standard time or DST. ...continue reading "Study Says Permanent Daylight Savings Would Reduce Car-Deer Crashes"

The United States has a growing problem. The number of cases of the always fatal Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is steadily spreading among wild game (elk and deer) and has now been found in 30 states. In October 2020 it had been detected in 26 states, Dec. 2021 in 27 states, and as of April 2022 the US government reported it in 30 states!

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a prion disease similar to "mad-cow disease" (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) in cattle and Creutzfeldt-Jakob's disease in humans. There is no cure or treatment, and it is always fatal. While up to now CWD has only been found in deer and elk, the concern is that this disease will jump to humans, especially in people who eat contaminated meat.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) should be of concern to all hunters or people who eat wild-caught game (deer, elk, moose, reindeer). No human cases have been detected, but health officials and the CDC warn people to avoid eating meat from CWD infected animals.

Symptoms of the disease: In chronic wasting disease there is a long incubation period, followed by the brain become progressively like a sponge - riddled with holes, along with deterioration in brain function, behavioral changes, and eventually death. A horrible slow death. There are no treatments or vaccines.

How is it spread? Scientists believe CWD prions spread between animals through body fluids (e.g., feces, saliva, blood, or urine), either through direct contact or indirectly through environmental contamination of soil, food or water. Once introduced into an area or farm, the CWD prion (protein) is contagious within deer and elk populations and spreads.

Once CWD gets into the soil, it stays there for years, and so animals can contract it even after infected deer and elk have died. Yikes!

How do you get rid of it? Unfortunately, high heat, disinfectants, and radiation don't kill the CWD prions. Dr.Zabel at the Colorado State Univ. Prion Research Center suggested a few years ago that controlled burns (fires) of infected fields or areas could eliminate the prions left behind by infected animals (from animal mucus/saliva, urine, and feces, and decaying carcasses) on plants and soil. ...continue reading "Thirty States Report Chronic Wasting Disease In Deer and Elk"