Shipely’s Science – Blog #2 – “Zombie Deer”

The last few weeks I have been bombarded by questions about “Zombie” deer.  Print, TV and radio seemed to pick this up as something new and disturbing.  The local TV station picked their feed up from somewhere and it was so inaccurate that I almost flew out of my chair screaming to my wife!  Here are the FACTS.  This is NOT “Zombie” deer disease.  This is the media sensationalizing (with the help of people who are trying to use scare tactics) Chronic Wasting Disease  (another bad choice of names).  There are lots of reasons for this, but it would require more space, time and energy than I have to give to the subject right now (suggest you read Current Scientific Knowledge About CWD by Drs. Davis, Waldrup, Stewart and Kroll).  The following are facts about CWD.

1.  It does not affect any domestic species such as cattle, sheep, horses, etc.

2. It only affects some species of deer (cervids) such as reindeer, whitetail deer, mule deer, elk, red deer, sika and muntjac that we currently know of

3. While the CDC recommends not eating infected animals (no one in their right minds would ever suggest that you eat a sick animal!), there are NO known cases being transmitted to man and undoubtedly somebody has eaten one ’cause it’s been around since the late ’60s!

4.  The organism (a misfolded protein called a prion) will stay in the environment (soil, plants, etc.) for years..

5. The prion is almost impossible to get rid of (common disinfection/sterilization procedures don’t work)

6. Almost all evidence points to the fact that it doesn’t affect wild populations of deer, elk or moose (a couple of reports otherwise but other factors probably more important)

7. It continues to spread in spite of over 100 million dollars being spent to control disease

8. It occurs in states with and without deer farming

9. Was most likely started in an experiment in a research facility in Colorado and then animals released back into the wild and sold to various zoos and individuals

10. Last, but not least, we will probably have to live with this disease.

But here’s the good news, go hunt.  Enjoy.  I have hunted endemic areas for years, seen positives and lived to tell about it!  If worried, bone out (you should anyway), don’t eat brains or spinal cord (I ain’t ever been that hungry yet) and clean the skull cap if you have a trophy.

I guess one last word.  There’s a video and claims of a cure/vaccine and another cause of CWD.  Suffice to say for now, it’s probably NOT true although there are people working on live animal tests and vaccines.  I’ll leave you with one thought on that claim…if they can cure Alzheimer’s (15% of cases I think is the claim) and probably the human prion diseases, then why are they working on deer?

Doc Shipley

Real World Wildlife Products position on CWD –
Real World Wildlife Products supports science-based and common-sense efforts to learn more about and deal with CWD.