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Game and Parks Commission reports results of chronic wasting disease testing

LINCOLN, Neb. – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has tallied the results of its sampling efforts for chronic wasting disease in deer during the November 2019 firearm season, and the results show the presence of chronic wasting disease in Howard County of central Nebraska for the first time.

Game and Parks conducted chronic wasting disease sampling at deer check stations in northwestern and northeastern Nebraska during the firearm deer season by removing lymph nodes for testing.

Deer that tested positive for the disease are listed at outdoornebraska.org/chronicwastingdisease, and the hunters who harvested those animals are being contacted by Game and Parks.

There were 169 positives from 1,803 deer sampled in the Pine Ridge, Plains, Missouri, Elkhorn, Calamus East and Loup East management units. Only mule deer were sampled in the Pine Ridge, only whitetails were sampled in the Missouri, Calamus East, Elkhorn and Loup East units, while both whitetails and mule deer were sampled in the Plains unit.

“The goal of this effort is to assess the spread and prevalence of the disease through periodic testing in each region of the state, which helps biologists predict when and if future effects on deer numbers may occur,” said Todd Nordeen, Game and Parks big game research and disease program manager. Testing will continue in select regions of the state in coming years.

Although present in Colorado and Wyoming for several decades prior, chronic wasting disease was first confirmed in Nebraska in 2000 in Kimball County. Since 1997, Game and Parks staff have tested nearly 55,000 deer and found 800 that tested positive. Chronic wasting disease has now been found in 43 of Nebraska’s 93 counties.

Chronic wasting disease attacks the brain of an infected deer, elk or moose, eventually causing emaciation, listlessness, excessive salivation and death. It is generally believed that chronic wasting disease is transmitted from animal to animal through exchange of body fluids, but other modes of transmission may exist.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has no reports of chronic wasting disease infecting people; however, hunters should cautiously handle and process deer and avoid consuming animals that test positive or look sick. The CDC also recommends that any deer harvested in a known chronic wasting disease endemic area should have that animal tested. Livestock and other animals not in the deer family do not appear susceptible to chronic wasting disease.

Hunters can help prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease by using proper carcass disposal methods. Learn those methods and more about chronic wasting disease at outdoorNebraska.org/chronicwastingdisease or cwd-info.org.

About Justin Haag

Justin Haag has served the Commission as a public information officer in the Panhandle since 2013. His duties include serving as regional editor for NEBRASKAland Magazine. Haag was raised in southwestern Nebraska, where he developed a love for fishing, hunting and other outdoor pursuits. After earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Chadron State College in 1996, he worked four years as an editor and reporter at newspapers in Chadron and McCook. Prior to joining the Commission in 2013, he worked 12 years as a communicator at Chadron State, serving as the institution’s media and public relations coordinator the last five. He and his wife, Cricket, live in Chadron, and have two children.

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