It’s a beautiful spring morning and the animals look sleek and healthy. But all is not what it seems. This herd is harboring an infection — chronic wasting disease, or CWD.
Scientists have called this neurodegenerative disease, which attacks deer, elk and moose, a “nightmare” and a “state of emergency.” Lately, the media’s been calling it “zombie deer disease.” Lawmakers are calling it a “crisis” and currently considering at least three bills at the national level to combat it. Researchers, resource managers and others worry it could hurt hunting, alter the landscape, or even jump across species to infect people.
Colorado, where 57% of deer herds and 37% of elk herds are infected, just came out with its latest management plan for chronic wasting disease. It includes testing animals, in some cases thinning out overly infected herds, warning hunters and taxidermists about how to handle tainted entrails and potentially investing in more incinerators to dispose of infected carcasses.