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State expands chronic wasting disease area

Photo by craigCloutier - Creative Commons License

This week, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish announced it’s keeping a closer eye on southern New Mexico, where some deer are infected with chronic wasting disease. That disease attacks the brain and spinal column of deer and elk, causing them to become emaciated and eventually die.  

Chronic wasting disease isn’t widespread in New Mexico, but there are some hot zones near Cloudcroft and Alamogordo.

To monitor the disease, the state is setting up field testing stations. They’re also making sure hunters don’t leave those areas with brain or spinal tissue from ANY deer. 

Cal Baca, wildlife management division chief of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish says the disease can’t spread to humans. It’s also not present in the meat of an infected animal.

And, he points out, most hunters would avoid infected deer.  “Normally,” he says “hunters aren’t harvesting an animal that has that, because they are emaciated, the look sick.”

Jeremy Vesbach, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation is glad the state is monitoring chronic wasting disease.

But he says, it should require testing of all animals killed in private game parks—because that’s where many of the sick animals are. 

Under state law, private landowners can fence in deer and elk for hunters. The animals within those enclosures are often trucked in from other areas—and if they’re infected, can spread the disease within those close quarters.

On the web: http://www.wildlife.state.nm.us/index.htm