The Natural Way

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

The overpopulation of deer in our area is very much on peoples' minds.

This is a nationwide problem as we are forcing herds of deer into tighter areas as we develop more subdivisions and shopping malls. We humans try to solve deer overpopulation by controlled hunts, relocation or even giving them birth control. What is missed is that the real problem is human overpopulation. Mother Nature's solution to both may not be so gentle. Chronic Wasting disease (CWD) is on the rise. I originally brought this to your attention over a year ago when the deer hunter and his prey on the back of the Citizen certainly caused a ruckus.

CWD is a strange illness called transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). You've heard of this being called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) or Mad Cow Disease. An odd little protein-like character called a prion is involved. It isn't a virus and it isn't a bacteria, it just causes havoc in the brain and nervous system of the critter (humans included) it infects. Deer have a version of this called chronic wasting disease.

This odd illness can cross over to humans from deer, though it is not easily done and as far as I know only proven in test tubes. States known to have significant populations of sick deer are Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota and our neighbor, Oklahoma. Have hunters been infected? Maybe. A year ago, Field & Stream magazine described the possibility in a story about an Oklahoma family and more recent reports state clearly that the whole family has been infected.

Wisconsin has plans to stage a special emergency whitetail deer hunt to eliminate as many as 15,000 this year. The purpose of this is to stop the spread of CWD. Can we be exempt here in Lovely County? It is likely we already have our share.

What to do? Hunters should not dress sickly looking deer. Instead, prompt burial is in order. During dressing, rubber gloves, aprons and eye protection should be used. The brain, spine, nervous system and lymph nodes should be avoided. Bet Daniel Boone didn't have to deal with this one.

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