Funding cuts for agency to limit testing sites; hunters encouraged to report sick deer
PRATT -- Due to a funding cut to the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks' (KDWP) chronic wasting disease (CWD) budget, the agency is scaling back CWD testing in eastern Kansas. Testing will continue as usual in western Kansas, where the risk of CWD is highest.

For hunters who wish to test a deer harvested in eastern Kansas, the head must be brought to the nearest KDWP office. If they can wait until the end of January for the results, KDWP will include them in the samples they send to Kansas State University (KSU) at no charge to the hunter. This is not a test of food safety, and the study will close immediately after the December rifle season.

If hunters wish to get the results sooner, they will need to have a veterinarian remove the retropharyngeal lymph nodes and obex, place them in formalin, and ship them to KSU for the IHC testing. KSU will have the test results after three days. The hunter will have to pay the veterinarian, a shipping fee, and the KSU fee of $30 -- about $100 by the time the samples are removed, shipped, and tested.

Hunters may also have the less-expensive enzyme-linked immuno-sorbent assay (ELISA) test -- a non-microscopic test in which a color change indicates a positive -- run for about $25. Although the test is cheaper, the samples must be shipped overnight or personally delivered because they must be kept fresh (refrigerated or frozen). Unless the hunter lives near Manhattan and can drop the samples at the lab, this option is really not cheaper than the IHC test.

Hunters and veterinarians can call KDWP at 620-342-0658 or the KSU Diagnostic Lab at 866-512-5650 for more information or guidance on removing and submitting the tissues.

The likelihood of finding CWD in a wild deer harvested in Kansas is small. That small likelihood decreases even more the farther from northwestern Kansas the deer lived. An unknown amount of risk accompanies deer that live in or nearby an uncertified captive deer/elk farm. Hunters can help protect the health of the Kansas deer herd by taking the following steps to avoid accidentally introducing CWD to a new area in Kansas:

  • do not transport deer carcasses far from the area where the deer lived, especially from areas where CWD has been detected, such as northwestern Kansas; and
  • if a carcass is transported, the hunter should make sure that carcass waste is not dumped into the environment where local deer or elk can come into contact with it. Carcass waste can be disposed of by double-bagging it and taking it to a landfill.

Once the infective agent is deposited into the environment and binds with certain soil particles, it becomes highly infectious and may persist for decades. There is no known cure or prevention for CWD. The only way to control it is to keep it out of new areas. Although an infected live deer can transport CWD as it moves around its territory, man is the most likely reason CWD makes long-distance jumps.

KDWP staff detected CWD in a wild whitetail doe in Cheyenne county in the 2005-06 season. Nonresident hunters should be aware of this is because their home state may be “CWD-free” and have a ban on importing various deer parts from states with documented cases of CWD. State regulations vary, but they generally only allow hunters to bring back the following:

  • meat that is cut and wrapped (either commercially or privately);
  • quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached;
  • meat that has been boned out;
  • hides with no heads attached;
  • clean (no meat or tissue attached) skull plates with antlers attached;
  • antlers with no meat or tissue attached; or
  • upper canine teeth, also known as "buglers," "whistlers," or "ivories."; or
  • finished taxidermy.

The Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance maintains a clearinghouse of state regulations online at www.cwd-info.org/index.php/fuseaction/policy.main, but the hunter should double-check with his or her home state for certainty. If a nonresident hunter wishes to find a taxidermist or meat locker to process deer, a handy list of cooperators who help with KDWP's CWD surveillance may be found on the KDWP webpage, www.kdwp.state.ks.us. Type "CWD surveillance" in the search box.

The symptoms of CWD include loss of body weight, stumbling, holding the head at an odd angle, circling, non-responsiveness to people, and pneumonia. Any deer that is acting ill is a CWD suspect, and KDWP staff would like to test it. The deer will need to be euthanized in order to obtain the samples. The hunter may not do this because they will have to use their permit or game tag on the animal. A sick deer or elk should be reported it to the nearest KDWP office or the Emporia Research Office, 620-342-0658.