LEWISTON, Idaho — Idaho wildlife managers say two deer killed in north-central Idaho have tested positive for chronic wasting disease. It's the first time the contagious and fatal neurological disorder has been detected in the state.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game announced Wednesday that the two mule bucks were killed near Lucille last month, and the hunters submitted the lymph nodes of the animals for testing as part of a voluntary chronic wasting disease monitoring program.
Chronic wasting disease, or CWD, can also infect elk, moose and caribou and has been confirmed in 25 states, The Lewiston Tribune reported.
Toby Boudreau, chief of the Fish and Game's Wildlife Bureau at Boise, said the two deer were killed about one-quarter mile from each other. He was "very surprised" Idaho's first positive tests came from an interior region and not from one bordering Montana, Wyoming or Utah — states that have known cases of the disease.
CWD was documented in wild deer in Colorado in 1981 and Wyoming in 1985. Montana's first detected case of CWD was in 2017.
Symptoms of the disease include excessive salivation, drooping head or ears, tremors, low body weight and unusual behavior — such as showing no fear of humans. It comes from a family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says chronic wasting disease has never been detected in humans, and it is not known if humans can contract it. Still, the CDC recommends that people who hunt in areas where the disease is known to be prevalent have their animals tested for CWD, and not consume any meat from animals that test positive.
Idaho's CWD monitoring program aims to detect a 1% prevalence of the disease, 95% of the time. Boudreau said the state will establish a CWD management zone in the area, examine animal migration patterns and determine if more sampling is needed.
"Our strategy sort of focuses on trying to keep the prevalence as low as possible," he said. "When we keep the prevalence low, we can slow the spread of it."