Prion Disease confirmed in British Columbia deer
February 7, 2024 9:08 AM   Subscribe

Reporting from The Tyee: The B.C. government quietly announced on Feb. 1 that it had detected chronic wasting (prion) disease in two deer.
posted by seanmpuckett (49 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Ah, crap. Not good.
posted by praemunire at 9:18 AM on February 7 [4 favorites]


Oh no.

Thanks for posting this.
posted by joannemerriam at 9:21 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


Quick, boost the mountain lion population!

Mountain Lions eat infected deer, and reduce deer-to-deer transmission, AND mountain lions seem to be very resistant to catching it.

"A Colorado Parks and Wildlife study has shown that adult deer infected with chronic wasting disease are four times more likely to die from mountain lions than uninfected adult deer. Similar studies in Wyoming have shown similar results.

"A lot of evidence points toward the fact that lions at some level pick out infected deer by looking at them as the best opportunity to kill something,'' CPW wildlife veterinarian Mike Miller said.

Among the signs of deer infected with chronic wasting disease are loss of awareness and loss of social interaction, meaning the deer are more easily preyed upon.

CPW has been studying the disease's impact on the deer herd at Table Mesa in collaboration with Boulder Open Space and Mountain Park for several years.

Miller said data from the study also showed mountain lions may help reduce the spread of the disease in the herd by killing infected deer on average several months before the deer die from "wasting," reducing the time infected deer have to spread the disease to others in the herd.

"For this to be useful from a disease control standpoint, the deer need to die early in the course of the disease,'' he said."
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries at 9:38 AM on February 7 [36 favorites]


I'm surprised to read one of the worries is extinction. That certainly is not a concern for white tail deer here in Mid-Atlantic U.S.
posted by Press Butt.on to Check at 9:39 AM on February 7 [5 favorites]


“Chronic wasting disease (CWD), is a contagious, always-fatal brain disease that affects members of the deer family. It was discovered in Pennsylvania's free-ranging white-tailed deer in 2012 and continues to be a threat to deer and elk in the Commonwealth.

Since then, the number of deer testing positive for CWD has risen and the area in which it is found has expanded.”

See the spread.
posted by MonkeyToes at 9:48 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


Oh no
posted by Suedeltica at 10:17 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised to read one of the worries is extinction. That certainly is not a concern for white tail deer here in Mid-Atlantic U.S.

Yet.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 10:23 AM on February 7 [14 favorites]


There is no evidence that CWD is transmissible to humans or traditional livestock. However, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that “Additional studies are under way to identify if any prion diseases could be occurring at a higher rate in people who are at increased risk for contact with potentially CWD-infected deer or elk meat. Because of the long time it takes before any symptoms of disease appear, scientists expect the study to take many years before they will determine what the risk, if any, of CWD is to people.”

Chronic Wasting Disease in Pennsylvania
Well, that is not particularly reassuring.

Thanks and a hat tip to MonkeyToes for the link!
posted by y2karl at 10:26 AM on February 7 [5 favorites]


That's the last time I do that for two bucks
posted by The otter lady at 10:26 AM on February 7 [16 favorites]


> Mountain Lions eat infected deer, and reduce deer-to-deer transmission, AND mountain lions seem to be very resistant to catching it.

What about wolves? How susceptible are they?

Wolves are probably a lot better fit than pumas over a large part of the range.
posted by Aardvark Cheeselog at 10:27 AM on February 7


Not just wild deer. CWD passes between wild and domestic deer and elk (livestock raised for food). There’s a lot of concern in the hunting community because the livestock deer are sometimes transported long distances, and can spread it to uninfected wild populations.
posted by ryanrs at 10:27 AM on February 7 [3 favorites]


One real worry is that because deer are hunted for food, that raises the risk of spreading CWD to humans. The model organism used in the linked experiment shed prions in feces. Prions could then persist and spread further through sewage and water systems.

Knock-out experiments that lower levels of the non-pathogenic form of the prion protein will lead to damage to neurons, so it appears to serve enough of a functional purpose for the gene to be conserved. The evolutionary age of prion genes is ancient, reaching as far back as a billion years to some common ancestor with yeast and Archaea.

It is kind of remarkable that organisms are still vulnerable to this after such a long evolutionary period, but maybe that is owed to the terrible disease's otherwise very low incidence rate and slow progression of symptoms.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 10:30 AM on February 7 [4 favorites]


So, mad deer disease now. So close. How am I supposed to fill out my bingo card from 2020 when they keep calling out random stuff.
posted by otherchaz at 10:32 AM on February 7 [6 favorites]


#teammoarmountainlions!
posted by supermedusa at 10:32 AM on February 7 [6 favorites]


If this transmits to humans, we can get mountain lions to weed out those infected, right?
posted by esoteric cruelties at 10:59 AM on February 7 [4 favorites]


If it transmits to humans with up to a 16 year course as with mad cow we're in a lot of trouble. Given the response to COVID and general healthcare? Just nightmarish.
posted by Slackermagee at 11:16 AM on February 7 [6 favorites]


I live in NW Washington State, USA, and our deer population has taken a hit recently, from adenovirus hemorrhagic disease (AHD), first in the San Juans, and later here on Fidalgo Island. The spread seems to have stopped, or at least been greatly reduced, but there are noticeably fewer deer and it makes me sad.
posted by xedrik at 11:18 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


If this transmits to humans, we can get mountain lions to weed out those infected, right?
Hey, look, we've had to deal with 16 years of supporters of the leopard-eating-faces party saying "I never thought that leopards would eat my face."
posted by bl1nk at 11:28 AM on February 7 [12 favorites]


It's funny, but also, not. Many people in BC who eat deer are indigenous subsistence hunters. For them this is kind of an apocalyptic scenario. Is the government going to do anything other than tell them they have to get their kills tested, which takes weeks, and then tell them they can't eat the meat? Or are the hunters just not going to report kills, and then maybe there's cross-species transmission and things get even more fucked. So I just find the whole leopards thing to be in fairly poor taste.
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:35 AM on February 7 [29 favorites]


Hey, look, we've had to deal with 16 years of supporters of the leopard-eating-faces party saying "I never thought that leopards would eat my face."

And whilst their faces are being eaten by leopards, they blame an opposition party for eating their faces.
posted by otherchaz at 11:36 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised to read one of the worries is extinction. That certainly is not a concern for white tail deer here in Mid-Atlantic U.S.

It actually is. In fact, the infection cluster in the eastern part of the US is centered in the Mid-Atlantic area. But it's already in 32 states and 5 provinces, we can't kid ourselves it won't reach the entire continent, especially given that there's no way to identify and then cull infected deer before they are transmissible.
posted by jordantwodelta at 11:40 AM on February 7 [4 favorites]


My in-laws live about half the time in southern Oregon, (Ashland). Deer are a fucking menace. They can fuck you up. OTOH, #teammoarmountainlions, I'd rather run into a deer in the woods than a Mountain Lion. They know several people who have had encounters with Mountain Lions, and that is not something I want to experience. They can fuck you up worse.

Definitely scary, given the possibility of it jumping to humans who eat venison.
posted by Windopaene at 11:44 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


If this transmits to humans, we can get mountain lions to weed out those infected, right?

From the evidence on YouTube, they are available, ready and often willing.
posted by y2karl at 11:51 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]




And we just bought a deer feeder to help the local wild population...
posted by ckoerner at 12:16 PM on February 7


I eat venison from an infected area weekly. I know the entire history of the harvest and butchering of that meat. I also know of its theoretical danger re CWG and have zero worries about it. I'm in far more danger from eating bad chicken.

Yet.
Sorry, no, the idea that white tail deer could be extirpated in the Eastern US via CWD is just ecologically ignorant. I can't speak to anywhere else, hence my surprise.
posted by Press Butt.on to Check at 12:24 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]


There was an article in The Guardian late last year about CWD in US deer which was interesting. I (nearly) went to Wisconsin over Christmas and New Year, so this particular paragraph caught my eye:

The Alliance for Public Wildlife estimated in 2017 that 7,000 to 15,000 CWD-infected animals a year were unwittingly being eaten by humans, and that the number was expected to increase 20% annually. In Wisconsin, where testing of game meat is voluntary, Anderson and Osterholm say many thousands of people have probably eaten meat from infected deer.
posted by Wordshore at 12:45 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


How, exactly, is it ecologically ignorant? I live just across the border from the American northeast. I have deer in my yard every morning. I don't see what makes our shared region somehow immune to the threat of a disease that is spready by contact with plants, soil, water, and other deer.

What secret protection do we enjoy from a disease that is 100 percent fatal and almost undetectable that other parts of the country don't? The sheer number of deer? There are about 35 million deer in the US right now. There were more than 3 billion passenger pigeons, and they went extinct.
posted by jordantwodelta at 12:47 PM on February 7 [16 favorites]


What about wolves? How susceptible are they?

Wolves are probably a lot better fit than pumas over a large part of the range.

--Aardvark Cheeselog

In many areas of the US where there are lots of deer and people there are also mountain lions but few or no wolves. For example, they've only detected 20 wolves in the entire state of California but over 4500 mountain lions. No CWD yet here, but it looks like it is spreading. I wonder if it can spread to cattle.

That it might be able to get into drinking water is very disturbing.
posted by eye of newt at 12:51 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]


I eat venison from an infected area weekly. I know the entire history of the harvest and butchering of that meat. I also know of its theoretical danger re CWG and have zero worries about it. I'm in far more danger from eating bad chicken.

for what it's worth the people I know in N. Alberta who habitually bag their quota each season are definitely talking about this and they are definitely concerned: concerned about the health implications, concerned about implications to the population (WTD and mule)

zero worries?
posted by elkevelvet at 1:01 PM on February 7 [5 favorites]


> Press Butt.on to Check: Sorry, no, the idea that white tail deer could be extirpated in the Eastern US via CWD is just ecologically ignorant.

I would be very interested to hear further details about why you feel this is ecologically ignorant.

Meanwhile, out of curiosity, I went and checked what a few eastern US state wildlife/natural resources departments had to say.
CT: CWD has not been found in Connecticut or New England. [...] CWD is a relatively new disease and, consequently, there are a lot of unknowns. CWD does not cause an immediate widespread die-off of deer, but there may be long-term impacts to the herd if the disease is allowed to spread. Some scientists who have tried to predict the outcome on a deer population have described the disease as a 30 to 50-year epizootic with a potential to extirpate local populations. Others believe that the impacts might not be that severe.

NJ: As of January 2021, New Jersey has tested a total of 9,842 free-ranging white-tailed deer, 156 captive white-tailed deer, and 17 captive exotic cervids. All samples to date have been negative for the CWD prion. (pdf link)

NY: CWD is not currently known to be in New York. [...] Chronic wasting disease (CWD) was first discovered within New York in captive and wild deer in Oneida County in 2005. A swift, intensive, and comprehensive $1 Million testing and culling operation by DEC and NYS Dept. of Agriculture and Markets was able to stop the outbreak. New York is the only state to have eliminated CWD.

PA: In 2003, a CWD Interagency Task Force was established and the first CWD Response Plan was developed for the Commonwealth. The plan was subsequently updated in 2005 and 2011.

VA: In Virginia, CWD has been confirmed in Fairfax, Fauquier, Floyd, Frederick, Clarke, Culpeper, Loudoun, Madison, Montgomery, Pulaski, Rappahannock, Shenandoah, and Warren counties. A summary of the DWR’s 2022-2023 deer hunting season CWD surveillance in the Disease Management Areas (DMA) can be found below (as of June 30, 2023). In total, 47 CWD positive detections were found. Only one of those was found outside of a DMA (Fairfax County). New for 2023: Arlington, Fairfax, and Prince William counties have been added to DMA2. Patrick County has been added to DMA3.

MD: The Department of Natural Resources has tested 13,314 deer through random CWD surveillance since 2002. Sick deer displaying neurological symptoms were tested for CWD from 1999-2001​. The disease was detected for the first time in Maryland from a deer taken by a hunter in November 2010, in Allegany County. To date, 171 infected deer have been documented in the state. [...] Due to the detection of CWD in Allegany, Carroll, Frederick, and Washington counties, the department maintains a Chronic Wasting Disease Management Area (CWDMA) to help slow the spread of the disease.
Overall, it seems to me like state wildlife departments take the threat of CWD fairly seriously though they generally downplay the direct threat to humans (presumably because we haven't seen a crossover yet). This map from the CWD Alliance purports to show all counties where CWD was found in cervids, differentiating between wild and captive cases. It seems that in the Eastern US, the area to keep an eye on is around central PA/WV/VA.
posted by mhum at 1:41 PM on February 7 [6 favorites]


"The last of us" anyone?

(Yes, I realize that story involved a fungus, but the effects would be equally disturbing).
posted by thoughtful_jester at 1:44 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]


We already extirpated deer from large areas of the US, before passing laws to protect them.

Nuisance deer in your backyard is a relatively recent phenomenon (also turkeys)
posted by ryanrs at 2:47 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]


I would be very interested to hear further details about why you feel this is ecologically ignorant.

I mean it is ignorant of actual current on-the-ground concerns of ecologists in my geographic area, again speaking specifically of white-tail deer -- the overpopulation of which is a huge problem. I did not say anything about CWD not being a "threat" generally. I believe it is, but I am surprised to read extinction is among the worries.
posted by Press Butt.on to Check at 2:57 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]


Like the standard presented in the article is:
"Absent a miracle, it’s an extinction event for deer.
I think that's likely over-stating the case but since it seems to be referring to mule-deer in western N America, which I don't know really anything about, I express surprise rather than doubt. In my neck of the woods, I find it extremely implausible it will wipe-out white-tail. If the sarcastic "yet" comment is referring to fifty years down the road, then yeah it's ignorant of all the shit we need to deal between now and then.
posted by Press Butt.on to Check at 3:22 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


Here's one of the scientific articles:

MOUNTAIN LIONS (PUMA CONCOLOR) RESIST LONG-TERM DIETARY EXPOSURE TO CHRONIC WASTING DISEASE

Lisa L. Wolfe;
Karen A. Fox;
Karen A. Griffin;
Michael W. Miller
J Wildl Dis (2022) 58 (1): 40–49.
https://doi.org/10.7589/JWD-D-21-00029
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries at 3:49 PM on February 7 [4 favorites]


https://www.americanheritage.com/return-white-tailed-deer
By 1880 scientists and a few pioneer conservationists were beginning to express concern for the future of the white-tailed deer as a species. Ten years later the deer population in North America hit rock bottom. The Appalachians and most of the country west to the Rockies were practically without deer. Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maryland, West Virginia, New Jersey, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska all counted their whitetail herds at near zero. The “last deer” in Indiana was shot near Red Cloud in 1893. Southern Maine and southern New Hampshire had none.
posted by ryanrs at 3:52 PM on February 7 [6 favorites]


CWD has been a concern in Montana (where I've hunted since childhood) for at least the last decade. I can't remember when I first heard about it...maybe longer. Here's an up-to-date map of where it's been found, including along the Alberta border.

Another concern over the past decade or so has been bluetongue disease, which particularly affected pronghorn antelope populations. I've always linked the two in my mind, but bluetongue is spread by flies rather than being a prion disease, from what I can tell.

Both are devastating to infected animals and I believe both can be transmitted to other animal populations, both wild and domestic.
posted by msbrauer at 4:55 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


The return of white tail deer in North America is an amazing achievement that was, in part, driven by trophy hunting and Boone & Crockett scores.

If you want to help, start hunting deer. Good for you and good for the environment. And for the love of Pete STOP BUYING VENISON FOR YOU AND YOUR DOGS. Deer farms are major reservoirs of CWD and now covid.
posted by nestor_makhno at 4:59 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]


Except for deer farms in Hawaii, maybe. I don't think CWD has been found there.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 5:40 PM on February 7


There were also bajillions of passenger pigeons, until there weren't. Just because something is currently plentiful doesn't mean it's immortal
posted by The otter lady at 5:44 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]


"Chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been detected in 32 US states and five Canadian provinces in free-ranging cervids and/or commercial captive cervid facilities. CWD has been detected in free-ranging cervids in 32 states and four provinces and in captive cervid facilities in 18 states and three provinces." (USGS.gov w/map)
posted by Iris Gambol at 5:47 PM on February 7


I recently got scolded for bringing up the spectre of prion diseases in a thread on human waste recycling. I had to walk away from the thread because it was a little infuriating how utterly dismissive the scolder's reaction was. Prions are extremely persistent in the environment. There's multiple examples of all the sheep infected with scrapie being culled and removed from a farm, and the farm being left without sheep for multiple years, and they bring back sheep, and the sheep promptly get scrapie again. It just doesn't go away.

Everywhere that CWD spreads, it is going to be a significant reinfection risk for an unknown period. As long as there are deer there, it will reignite and come back. Unless, somehow, impossibly, the deer are kept entirely out for... years? Decades? We don't know how long.

I think it's wishful thinking to believe it's safe to eat venison from CWD deer. It might be relatively low transmission rate due to some good fortune of PrP incompatibility, but once the reaction starts in vivo, it's not going to stop.
posted by notoriety public at 6:55 PM on February 7 [4 favorites]


I think that's likely over-stating the case but since it seems to be referring to mule-deer in western N America, which I don't know really anything about, I express surprise rather than doubt. In my neck of the woods, I find it extremely implausible it will wipe-out white-tail. If the sarcastic "yet" comment is referring to fifty years down the road, then yeah it's ignorant of all the shit we need to deal between now and then.

I would guess that there's an important confusion going on here. There are two sets of experts talking about two different timescales. Short-term overpopulation but long-term extinction can be consistent.

Furthermore, it is plausible that overpopulation can worsen pandemics. Because prions tend to remain in the environment, an overpopulation of deer can shed prions over more territory at higher infectious loads. The combination of these fomites and the exponential transmissibility of a concentrated population thus accelerates the extinction crisis in the next phase. It's like a positive feedback phenomenon.

I would not be surprised the local ecologists focusing on overpopulation have also attended talks/conferences about prion disease and are well aware of that as well. It might be worthwhile to ask them about CWD.
posted by polymodus at 9:41 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]


If CWD is transmissible to humans (and I really hope it is not), that's a significant worry not just for people who eat venison/deer

but also for people who eat fruit/vegetables grown around deer - because CWD can be spread from deer-to-deer by urine on plants and faeces on plants.
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries at 10:04 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I have deer literally walking up to me in my yard (the neighbors feed them). If they become Infectious zombie deer that's going to be a lot less cute
posted by The otter lady at 9:29 AM on February 8 [2 favorites]


Speaking of persistent pathogens, there’s a rabbit hemorrhagic virus now in California that can survive 4+ months in the environment.

https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/AHFSS/Animal_Health/RHD.html

RHDV2 spread from coast-to-coast in Australia in 18 months.

(If you have a hunting license, the state sends out emails asking for reporting and other on-the-ground surveillance.)
posted by ryanrs at 10:54 AM on February 8


And if you have a domestic bunny in the area, incl the Bay Area, get it vaccinated.
posted by ryanrs at 12:56 PM on February 8


My dog gets (processed) venison treats sometimes. The deer is from the U.S. I'm thinking I'm going to stop feeding those. The odds are tiny, but there's no reason to confront them.
posted by praemunire at 2:17 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


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