Colorado Wildlife experts are research to find out more about the effect of chronic wasting disease— a neurological sickness in deer species— while trying to quell some fears along the way.
The disease are misfolded proteins— prions— that affect the nervous system in deer.
A study from the Alberta Prion Research Institute at the University of Calgary found that when green macaque monkeys were fed infected venison meat, some contracted a primate version of the disease.
“It’s the first time that’s occurred.” Brad Petch, the senior biologist for the Northwest Division of Colorado Park and Wildlife, “It does raise some interesting questions. It certainly warrants much additional research.”
The research, Petch says, has yet to be peer-reviewed or published and the affect the disease has on humans as not been found.
“There appears to be a pretty solid species barrier for chronic wasting disease between deer, elk and moose and human beings.” Petch said, “The challenge is you can never say ‘Oh that’s impossible for something to happen.'”
The disease was first found in a research facility in Fort Collins, Colo. in 1967 and the first positive test on the Western Slope was in the early 2000’s. Colorado Parks and Wildlife has conducted research of it’s own to determine how widespread it is in Colorado.
“We’re still in the process of working through the details, but it does seems the prevalence is on the rise.” Petch said.
CPW mandated testing for the disease at 21 Game Management Units in the state to figure out those details.
In the last test, less than 1% of the deer in the Grand Mesa National Forest tested positive for the CWD.
Locally, wild game processors have not ran across an infected animal.
“As far as I’m aware they always comeback to pick their animal up,” Daniel Gillilan, owner of D & M Meats in Fruita, said, “A lot of them will wait until they hear back from the results and the ones that I’ve processed have never tested positive.”
Colorado Parks and Wildlife should have the results from this test in time for the 2018 Mule Deer season.