The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism recently released information regarding the testing of area deer for a rare type of potentially fatal foot rot disease.
Shawnee County had one report of a sick or dead deer thought to be afflicted with hoof disease in 2016-17, according to a map provided by the KDWPT. The hardest hit counties were in the southeast portion of Kansas — namely Bourbon, Butler and Anderson. Bourbon had between five and eight reports, while Butler and Anderson had between three and four apiece.
Beginning in January, the KDWPT began shipping fresh hooves from deer thought to be afflicted with the disease to be studied at the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, which is operated through the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
“Diagnostics showed the hoof disease story is more about trauma to the hooves with the onset of secondary bacterial infections,” Shane Hesting, wildlife disease coordinator for the KDWPT, said in an email. “The cause of the trauma is unknown. I hypothesize that several things are possibly causing the trauma, such as cut soybean stems at ground level, jagged frozen soil, barbed wire, locust thorns, stress fractures during fighting and chasing does, weakened bones due to poor physical condition (rut), etc.”
Hesting emphasized that the surge in reports of hoof disease in white-tailed deer can mostly be credited to increased awareness via social media posts and email blasts. He said the uptick in reporting may also be connected with the greater-than-normal amounts of rainfall the state saw during 2016. Parts of Shawnee County saw between 4 and 12 inches of precipitation more than average in 2016, according to the Midwestern Regional Climate Center. The averages are calculated based on annual precipitation measured between 1981 and 2010.
“Deer live with a plethora of bacterial species on a daily basis, and some of these bacterial species cause problems when injury and/or immunosuppression occurs, like we see when bucks are worn down from rutting,” Hesting said.
He said that some hooves had been damaged by hemorrhagic disease viruses during the summer months, which then progress to hoof infections in the fall and winter. He said bacterial species accumulate in the soil at deer feeders and other areas where deer congregate, and the thawing and freezing of soil at these spots often creates a jagged soil surface that can injure hooves.
Hesting added that this is another reason to limit the baiting and feeding of deer.
“In 2016, stressed and immunosuppressed post-rut animals in the population merged with an environment of wetter soil during a wetter-than-normal year, varying bacterial loads and other conditions leading to hoof infections,” Hesting said. “Even though hoof infections occur every year in Kansas, it is currently thought that these cases have not and will not affectthe overall deer population in the state.
“The current statewide average — based on 2016 distance sampling — of the Kansas deer herd is estimated to be approximately 636,000.”
Chronic wasting disease
Chronic wasting disease, a sister to the infamous “mad cow disease,” also recently made headlines after researchers in Canada suggested humans may be vulnerable to the disease. The researchers reached this conclusion after infecting macaques, a species of monkey genetically similar to humans, with the disease. The study is ongoing and has yet to be peer-reviewed or published, according to Hesting.
The British Deer Society issued a statement on June 8 about the findings in the CWD study.
“BDS is aware that researchers in Alberta have experimentally infected macaques with chronic wasting disease via oral gavage with infected cervid brain or muscle tissue,” the statement said. “However, other researchers at the Rocky Mountain Laboratory have failed to infect macaques orally. These apparently contrary results suggest that more research is required to better understand the infection risk that infected deer products pose to primates.
“The European Food Safety Authority recently published a scientific opinion that stated that while there was no absolute barrier to transmission of CWD to humans, epidemiological studies of humans have not linked Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease to exposure to CWD.”
Nationally, the Wisconsin state assembly voted last month to relax bans on the baiting and feeding of deer in counties with chronic wasting disease. The state has been hit hard by the disease, and the ban prevented infected deer from intermingling with non-infected populations at feeders. In response, the 360-member Wisconsin Conservation Congress sent a letter last week to the state’s Gov. Scott Walker asking him to veto the bill. Walker’s February 2017 state budget proposal also called for the $5 million acquisition of a Department of Natural Resources science facility in Monona, Wis., to add a CWD processing center.
In Mississippi, a federal judge is calling for CWD testing after a tornado ripped through an enclosure housing illegally imported deer from Texas, unleashing possibly diseased deer on the previously unblemished Mississippi deer population.
For more information on CWD, go tohttp://ksoutdoors.com/Hunting/Big-Game-Information/Chronic-Wasting-Disease/.