Concerns Spread As Chronic Wasting Disease Inches Toward Indiana
Updated December 27, 2018 8:48 AM | Filed under: Natural Resources
(UNDATED) – Hunters and state officials are concerned about the threat of chronic wasting disease among Indiana’s wild deer as the fatal disease creeps closer to the state’s borders.
Deer infected with chronic wasting disease has been found in Michigan and Illinois, within 30 miles (50 kilometers) of the Indiana border. It causes a characteristic spongy degeneration of the brains of infected animals resulting in emaciation, abnormal behavior, loss of bodily functions and death.
CWD is spread through bodily fluids like feces, saliva, blood or urine. CWD is transmitted either through direct contact or indirectly through environmental contamination of soil, plants, food or water. CWD is similar to mad cow disease in cattle and scrapie in sheep.
There is no known way to prevent or cure the disease.
Indiana Deer Hunter’s Association president Joe Bacon said the highly contagious disease could not be stopped from entering the state, only slowed down.
“Hunters and Hoosiers are and should be scared of the disease reaching Indiana,” Bacon said. “Someone once told me this is Pandora’s box opened up, and I believe it.”
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources is asking hunters in some border areas to have their harvested deer tested for the disease.
Each year, Indiana DNR biologists and staff at DNR fish & wildlife areas collect tissue samples from hunter-harvested and road-killed deer for CWD testing. Samples are collected from across the state to monitor the presence of the disease in Indiana.
The DNR requests voluntary assistance from hunters in this effort. Biologists are collecting samples (lymph nodes at the junction of the head and neck) from deer harvested within the Core Surveillance Area and the Enhanced Surveillance Areas. There will be no fee charged for CWD testing of deer from these areas through this program. Test results, when available, will be posted online for individual hunters to access.
To date, all deer samples tested for CWD in Indiana have tested negative.
The disease was first found in Colorado in the 1970s. Officials believed CWD would take more than 100 years to work its way east with the Mississippi River serving as a natural border, but since landing in Wisconsin in 2002, it has plagued more than 25 states and continued to spread, according to Kip Adams, the conservation director for the Quality Deer Management Association.
“We view the disease as being one of the most pressing threats to hunting and deer management in the US We fully believe it is that big of an issue,” said Adams.
Indiana Department of Natural Resources veterinarian Nancy Boedeker predicts CWD could arrive in Indiana in 2019. She says testing would become mandatory if the disease is detected in Indiana.
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