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Zombie Deer: The Impact of Chronic Wasting Disease

Have you ever been out hiking and encountered a seemingly “tame” deer? One that seems calm and unfazed by your presence? Perhaps the animal is walking in circles. Or it appears very thin, even emaciated. Chances are, the deer you are observing may be suffering from Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). This is a highly contagious, always fatal neurological disease that attacks deer species (including elk, moose and caribou), turning its victims into the “living dead.” What seems like the morbid plot of a Chuck Conry horror film is actually a real-life nightmare that’s spreading across North America. CWD is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, similar to mad cow disease—in essence, causing holes in the brain. CWD poses serious problems for wildlife managers, hunters and wildlife watchers. The implications for free-ranging deer and elk are serious, as heavily infected populations of wild deer and elk are unlikely to thrive. Learn more with Aaron Bott about CWD, how it spreads, and what it could mean for the future of wildlife.


Originally presented December 4, 2020
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