Provincial wildlife officials are concerned that a disease killing deer and elk on the prairies could soon spread into B.C.
Chronic wasting disease, a degenerative nervous system condition similar to so-called mad cow disease, has been discovered in an animal 30 kilometres southeast of Edmonton.
That’s the furthest west – by about 100 kilometres – that biologists have detected the deadly disease and the discovery intensifies concerns that infected deer may make their way to B.C.
No infected animals have been found yet in B.C. but wildlife health staff are stepping up monitoring efforts in the Peace and Kootenay regions, where deer are most at-risk.
Hunters are being asked to help by donating deer, elk and moose heads for analysis. Drop-off locations are listed at www.stopchronicwastingdisease.ca.
Anyone who encounters a sick or dead deer is urged to report it to B.C.’s wildlife health program by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Although chronic wasting disease is similar to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, Alberta’s agriculture and forestry ministry says there’s no evidence it can infect humans, but notes the World Health Organization advises against allowing any meat source possibly infected by prions into the human food system.
It’s thought to be unlikely that the disease could spread to domestic cattle or bison.
Outbreaks on game farms typically result in quarantines and culls.
Transmission is through saliva, urine and feces and is thought to be more likely to occur where elk and deer are crowded or congregate at man-made feed and water stations, according to the Alberta ministry.
Most of the Canadian cases have been in Saskatchewan.