Rapidly growing numbers of cases of chronic wasting disease are appearing on deer and elk farms and hunting ranches in Wisconsin at the same time the state has pulled back on rules and procedures designed to limit the spread of the fatal brain disease among its captive and wild deer.
Prions — the infectious, deformed proteins that cause chronic wasting disease in deer — can be taken up by plants such as alfalfa, corn and tomatoes, according to new research from the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison. The research further demonstrated that stems and leaves from tainted plants were infectious when injected into laboratory mice.The findings are significant, according to the researchers and other experts, because they reveal a previously unknown potential route of exposure to prions for a Wisconsin deer herd in which the fatal brain illness continues to spread.
Politicians including Gov. Scott Walker have put the kibosh on CWD-eradication strategies seen as detrimental to herd size. And James Kroll, Walker’s deer trustee, has recommended “a more passive approach” to the disease.