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Chronic Wasting Disease – Feature Story – (2017)


Dr.David Hewitt and Dr.Randy DeYoung are professors
at Texas A&M-Kingsville and Research Scientists with the Ceasar Kleberg Wildlife Research
Institute. They’re doing important and valuable research
on a ever increasing menace affecting native deer species in Texas and other states. Chronic Wasting Disease the one type of disease
in a whole family of diseases and one kind of type of disease most people recognize as
Mad Cow Disease and Chronic Wasting Disease is a similar type of disease as Mad Cow Disease. And what it is a misfolding of natural proteins
in the animal’ s body, and when these misfold they cause problems, they don’t break down
normally so they kinda build up and the end game of all that is what is really important,
because these proteins build up in the animals brain and the brain quits functioning it actually
gets holes in it and bad things start happening. So one of the problems with Chronic Wasting
Disease it’s very difficult to tell if an animal has it. Until the very final stages and even the final
stages the symptoms aren’t unique they, you can see those very same symptoms in a lot
of other diseases. Researches are trying to determine where and
how the disease may spread next. Well we actually had a two studies and the
modeling study is one of them and we have an ongoing study where we were trying to essentially
study and predict in mule deer in Texas Mule Deer where the disease might be eventually
transmitted to. There’s some areas in Western Texas near El
Paso that there’s an endemic area New Mexico where natural movements of deer been coming
into Texas with Chronic Wasting Disease in the past 2 or 3 years and there’s also an
area in the Texas Panhandle up northwest of Amarillo. That’s some mule deer and a few elk have tested
positive for Chronic Wasting Disease and beyond that in the last several years there’s been
several cases in captive herds of white tail deer in Texas and recently in Medina County
there was some free ranging white tail deer that tested positive. Also in the field with them is Dr. Aaron Foley
he’s done extensive research in the area and shared with us some video that he shot personally
of his assignments in the area tracking deer populations and the natural spread of this
disease. My Role was to develop deer population model
based on 20 years of surveys conducted on the King Range. I then incorporated CWD parameters into the
model to assess the changes in the projected deer population sizes. With the disease spreading to free roaming
deer populations, the researchers are turning their focus to management strategies. And because it’s not a living organism you
can’t kill it, it’s not alive and so when these preons, they call them pre-on protein
and when these preons are in the soil excreted by the animal in it’s saliva, urine, feces
and things like that. Those pre-ons can sit there for a long periods
of time, years potentially. And if other animals get enough of a dose
or enough of those pre-ons they can get the same kind of chain reaction in their body
and then they become carriers of Chronic Wasting Disease and eventually die of the disease. Right now there’s no vaccinations or treatments
for it, once it gets started there is nothing you can do. One important thing to recognize is that there
is no evidence that shows people are susceptible to the disease, so why hunters want to be
careful handling deers in areas where Chronic Wasting Disease has been documented. Very resistant to break down and so things
like heat and bleach and things like that you couldn’t just do that to an entire ranch.

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