Kansas deer test CWD negative

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Jul. 03, 2002  

Kansas deer test negative for chronic wasting disease

The ailment has struck in nearby states, and concern is growing nationally.

BY PHYLLIS JACOBS GRIEKSPOOR, The Wichita Eagle

A disease that causes deer and elk to stop eating, become disoriented and, eventually, to die has not yet struck wild deer in Kansas.

Deer sampled in Harper County in January did not have chronic wasting disease, said Lloyd Fox of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. Fox learned of the results Tuesday.

Random tests of deer harvested during the hunting season have been negative as well, said Kansas Livestock Commissioner George Teagarden.

Hunters and the owners of businesses that support the state's rapidly-growing white tail deer hunting industry have nervously awaited the results.

Deer hunting generates direct retail sales of $140 million annually in Kansas and creates the equivalent of 2,900 full-time jobs, said Bob Mathews, a Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks spokesman.

Guided hunts are a growing business in the woodsy areas of southeast and northeast Kansas, where farmers have found that buying transferable landowner permits from Wildlife and Parks and selling them to hunters from other states can be a lucrative supplement to farming income.

"It's a big income block for farmers who live in good hunting areas," said Mark Uhlik of the Kansas Guides and Outfitters Association.

The Kansas test results come against a backdrop of growing national concern about the disease and the announcement of $12.2 million in additional federal funds to fight it.

The disease has spread from northeastern Colorado and southwestern Wyoming to wild herds in Nebraska and was recently confirmed in Wisconsin and New Mexico as well.

Domestic elk in 16 states have the disease, and many states, including Kansas, have placed restrictions on the transport of live animals from outside their borders.

The federal funding will pay for finding and destroying infected animals as well as cleaning up contaminated areas and compensating domestic elk or deer ranchers for their losses.

Money will also be dedicated to research into what causes the disease, how it is spread, what its incubation period is and how long it lives in the environment.

"There is no doubt that we have grave concern about this disease," Teagarden said. "There are a great many questions that need to be answered."

Chronic wasting disease has already taken a big toll on the domestic elk and deer ranching industry. Not only have ranchers lost valuable animals, but they've taken a public image hit as well.

"Game farming is getting the blame for CWD, and that's just not the case," said Ken Anderson, who raises about 150 elk outside Fort Scott and in Clay County in north-central Kansas.

Since January, Kansas has required all domestic elk coming into the state to be from herds monitored for the disease for at least four years. About 60 elk ranchers are registered with the Kansas Animal Health Board.

"We are essentially shut down," said Gayle Bartel, who, with her husband, Don, and children Josh and Stephanie, runs Animal Acres, an elk ranch near Potwin in Butler County.
 

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