CWD verified in two more New Mexico deer


Associated Press


LAS CRUCES, N.M. - Chronic wasting disease has been diagnosed in two deer killed during a hunt in the Organ Mountains east of Las Cruces, state officials say.

New Mexico now has recorded six cases of the disease, all in deer. The malady is always fatal to deer or elk.

The other cases occurred on White Sands Missile Range, adjacent to the mountains in southern New Mexico, where the first case was detected in June 2002 in a mule deer.

The latest two cases were confirmed among seven deer killed during the January hunt.

The infected animals were shot on the western slope of the Organ Mountains, where the deer population has plummeted in recent years, said Kerry Mower, a wildlife disease specialist with the state Department of Game and Fish.

The cause of the population plunge is not known, he said.

State officials will try to establish, through random testing of deer during the next 12 months, the prevalence of chronic wasting disease in the small herds on the missile range and in the Organ Mountains, Mower said.

State officials will then have to determine if and when to pursue a herd eradication effort, he said.

"We haven't discussed it enough for me to give you an answer," Mower said. "But that question is uppermost."

Chronic wasting disease creates sponge-like holes in a deer's brain, causing the animal to grow thin, act abnormal and die. The disease is similar to mad cow disease.

There never has been a known case of it being transferred to humans or livestock.

Once found only in small areas of Colorado and Wyoming, the disease has spread to elk ranches and wild deer herds as far away as Wisconsin.

New Mexico officials are not sure how the disease arrived at White Sands.

"You'd think this (question of transmission) would be the easiest question to answer, but the fact is, we don't know," Mower said Saturday. "It's just very baffling."

Top Bottom