It may be October but these “zombie deer” have nothing to do with Halloween.
Officials in Nevada are desperately trying to keep all deer with a highly contagious, fatal condition known as chronic wasting disease — sickening them with zombie-like symptoms — out of the state.
The disease, which affects deer, elk, reindeer, sika deer and moose, causes the animals to dramatically lose weight and walk in repetitive patterns. Other symptoms include loss of fear of humans, stumbling and listlessness. The disease can destroy deer and elk populations.
Officials are testing dead animals and examining migratory deer and elk at the state line with Utah for any signs of the disease, according to Peregrine Wolff, a Nevada Department of Wildlife veterinarian.
The state’s legislators also passed a law earlier this year to restrict parts of certain carcasses from making their way into the state.
Tyler Turnipseed, chief Nevada game warden, suggested in testimony about the proposed law that local populations could be infected if a hunter passing through the state from elsewhere dumps butchered waste.
Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming have all reported cases of animals with the disease — heightening concerns that the disease could spread into Nebraska, Utah, Idaho and ultimately Nevada, J.J. Goicoechea, a state Department of Agriculture veterinarian, told lawmakers.
“It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when,” Wolff said. “We know that we can’t wrap Nevada in a bubble.”
The disease is transmitted by prions — protein particles that have been linked to brain diseases including mad cow disease in cattle and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans.
To date, there have been no reported cases of humans infected by the disease, according to the CDC. But some animal studies indicate that the disease poses a risk to various breeds of non-human primates, including monkeys, that eat meat from infected animals or come in contact with their bodily fluids, according to the agency.
Those studies raise concerns that humans could also be affected.
In New York, specifically, chronic wasting disease was discovered in wild and captive white-tailed deer in Oneida County back in 2005, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Since then, there have been no recurrences of the disease in the state.
With Post wires