What is zombie deer disease? Warning not to approach animals in Yellowstone Park

Yellowstone National Park stands out for being one of the oldest and most famous recreation areas in the USA. A large part of the reserve is located in Wyoming and extends into parts of Idaho and Montana.

On more than 2.2 million acres, Yellowstone Park offers visitors a variety of opportunities to observe wildlife up close. However, alarm bells have been sounded in recent days as authorities warned visitors to stay away from deer, moose and elk. This is due to first recorded case of chronic wasting disease, commonly known as “zombie deer disease”.

Warning not to approach animals in Yellowstone Park

According to a statement released by Yellowstone National Park and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, an adult mule deer died in mid-October from chronic wasting disease.

“THE The WGFD recently confirmed the presence of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in the carcass of an adult mule deer found near Yellowstone Lake in the southeast portion of the park. It is the first confirmed positive detection of the disease in Yellowstone National Park. The mule deer was originally captured by WGFD staff near Cody, Wyoming, in March 2023 as part of a population dynamics study and fitted with a GPS collar. The collar indicated that the animal died in mid-October 2023. In coordination with Yellowstone personnel, WGFD located the carcass on the promontory, a landmass that separates the south and southeast arms of Yellowstone Lake, and collected samples for analysis. The samples tested positive for CWD based on multiple diagnostic tests performed at the WGFD Wildlife Health Laboratory,» » reads the statement.

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In the same press release, the authorities call on visitors to avoid approaching animals and ask them to notify a National Park Service employee if they see or become aware of an animal that appears sick or dead.

Avoid touching or handling sick or dead wildlife, as some disease-causing organisms can be transmitted between wildlife and humans.. NPS employees trained in wildlife health use specific protective measures to safely care for a wildlife animal that may have died from disease,” they note on their website.

What is “zombie deer” disease?

After the first case of chronic wasting disease was confirmed in Yellowstone Park, questions were raised about the state and, more curiously, why is it called Zombie Deer Disease.

According to National geographic, chronic wasting disease is a disorder that gradually destroys the nervous system of animals, causing motor incoordination, weight loss and apathy, giving the effect of a zombie.

Transmission is done by proteins called prions“which are spread among animals by bodily fluids” and which are “a family of rare neurodegenerative diseases that affect animals. Transmission is even easier when you consider that mule deer eat small amounts of soil each day, for the important minerals it contains. But some bites contain not only minerals, but also prions.”

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department assures that currently, “There is no evidence that CWD can infect humans or domestic animal species. However, it is recommended not to consume tissues from animals infected with CWD..”

Gn Health

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