Bear Hunters:  The 2014 archery/crossbow season for bears opens Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014.  All hunters must check the KDFWR homepage or call the Info Center at 1-800-858-1549 AFTER 9:00 PM each day of the season to learn if the black bear quota was met. Go here for info about checking bears

 Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

Brief Description

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a fatal, neurological disease of white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, and moose. Since 2002, KDFWR has tested over 22,000 deer and elk for CWD; all results have been negative. CWD has not been found in the State of Kentucky. To see which states have confirmed CWD in deer or elk, check out the US Geological Survey’s CWD map: http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/images/cwd/cwd_map.jpg.

Causative Agents

CWD belongs to a group of diseases called Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSE), which includes scrapie in sheep and goats, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (commonly known as "mad cow” disease) in cattle, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. It is suspected that the agent responsible for causing TSEs is an abnormal protein called a prion.

Although the exact method of transmission is unknown, evidence suggests that CWD is transmitted through direct animal-to-animal contact and indirectly through environmental contamination from feces, urine, saliva, and infected carcasses. There is evidence that CWD prions can survive in the environment even after infected animals have been removed.

Clinical Signs

Animals can be infected with CWD for months or years before clinical signs are evident. In the terminal stages of infection, deer and elk will show signs of progressive weight loss, excessive salivation and urination, increased water intake, and depression. Other noticeable changes include decreased interactions with other animals, listlessness, lowering of the head, blank facial expression, and repetitive walking in set patterns. In elk, hyper-excitability and nervousness may be observed.

NOTE: These signs are also symptomatic of other more commonly seen diseases, such as meningeal worm infections (“brain worm”) in elk and epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) or blue-tongue virus in white-tailed deer and elk.

Lesions

No obvious lesions can be seen in affected animals. With advanced disease, the brain will have a “spongy” texture.

Diagnosis

The only definitive way to diagnose the disease is by examination of a portion of the brain stem (the obex) and lymph tissue (the retropharyngeal lymph node). There is currently no practical live-animal test for chronic wasting disease.

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