A ‘zombie deer disease’ that leaves animals confused and drooling has been confirmed in US’ Yellowstone National Park, the Independent reported. The National Park Service confirmed the case in a news release and said the disease was present in the carcass of an adult mule deer buck found near Yellowstone Lake in the southeastern section of the park.
The deer that died had originally been captured in Cody, Wyoming as part of a population study. The GPS collar that had been placed on the animal allowed officials to determine when it died. The collar signaled the animal died in mid-October 2023.
“In coordination with Yellowstone staff, WGFD located the carcass on the Promontory, a landmass that separates the South and Southeast arms of Yellowstone Lake, and collected samples for testing. The samples tested positive for CWD based on multiple diagnostic tests performed at WGFD’s Wildlife Health Laboratory,” the release read.
What is Zombie Deer Disease?
‘Zombie Deer Disease’ also known as Chronic wasting disease (CWD), is a contagious and fatal illness that affects cervids, a group of animals that includes deer, elk, caribou, reindeer, and moose. So far, CWD has been reported in 31 states in the US.
It is caused by a malformed protein (prion) which accumulates in the brain and other tissues causing physiological and behavioral changes. emaciation, and ultimately death. It is transmitted by direct animal-to-animal contact or indirectly through contact with infectious particles persisting in the environment such as feces, soil, or vegetation. Animals can also become infected if their feed or pasture is contaminated with the prions carrying it.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it may take over a year for symptoms in the deer to develop. It usually starts with the deer drastically losing weight, stumbling around, and losing all energy. At present, CWD does not have any cure or vaccine.
Signs of Zombie Deer Disease
- Weight loss
- Increased drinking and urinating,
- Excessive drooling
- Head lowering.
- Loss of coordination
CWD is not known to infect humans or domestic and livestock animals. ”There is currently no evidence that CWD can infect humans or domestic animal species. However, it is recommended that tissues from CWD-infected animals not be consumed,” the US National Park Service said in its statement.
Some studies have suggested chronic wasting disease is a risk to monkeys that eat infected animal meat or come in contact with infected animal brains or bodily fluids.