State to study Kodiak game for chronic wasting disease

Posted: Tuesday, September 30, 2003

KODIAK (AP) State wildlife biologists are conducting a study to determine whether chronic wasting disease has affected Kodiak Island.

Officials with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game need to gather at least 500 deer heads and as many elk heads as possible for the study.

State officals hope to prove that the insidious disease, which has been found in the western United States, is not present here.

There's no indication that it exists here, said fish and game biologist Larry VanDaele.

The study is funded by the federal government, which is working with several states to identify whether the disease exists in their area. Chronic wasting disease, which is related to mad-cow disease, causes proteins in the brain to breakdown. Animals infected with chronic wasting disease become emaciated, have behavioral changes, and eventually die. It takes at least 17 months for these symptoms to appear.

Scientists believe the disease is transmitted from animal to animal through saliva, feces, or urine. There has been no cases of human transmission.

States are taking different approaches to containing chronic wasting disease, with Wisconsin aggressively wiping out affected deer populations.

But the disease is so widespread in other states that biologists are struggling to keep it contained.

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