DENVER — A moose killed earlier this month in northern Colorado has tested positive for chronic wasting disease, apparently the first of its species known to have contracted the fatal neurological disorder in the wild, state wildlife officials said Thursday.
An archer killed the moose near Cameron Pass in Jackson County on Sept. 10, and testing two days later confirmed the presence of the disease, said Kathi Green, disease management coordinator for the state Division of Wildlife. More testing is being conducted, but she said the test performed earlier this month is the same test used to confirm preliminary results in elk and deer.
“Our veterinarians have looked at the slides and felt the diagnosis was correct,” she said.
Chronic wasting disease, a fatal and transmissible brain ailment similar to mad cow disease, has previously been found only in deer and elk in the wild.
It was too early to say whether the news would affect moose management or prompt changes in the agency’s strategy for handling chronic wasting disease, Green said.
“It’s important to keep in mind that because of moose social habits — they tend to be pretty solitary — we think that cases in moose are likely to be a pretty rare occurrence,” Green said.
Scientists have found no evidence the disease can be transmitted to humans, but wildlife officials advise hunters not to eat meat from infected animals and to avoid eating nervous-system tissue and some other types of tissue from all deer and elk.
Hunters in Colorado have submitted 288 moose for testing for chronic wasting disease since 2002. Such testing became mandatory in 2003. Nearly 13,000 deer and elk were submitted for testing from August 2004 to April 2005. Of those animals, 175 tested positive for chronic wasting, the Division of Wildlife said.
Division of Wildlife spokesman Tyler Baskfield said researchers at the University of Wyoming have been able to intentionally infect a captive moose.
“We were ready for this to be a possibility,” Baskfield said. “I’m sure that the scientific community and our biologists and veterinarians will have to revisit and look into what this means in terms of game management.”
The disease has been found in deer and elk in Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska; and in deer in Utah, New Mexico, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Illinois, New York and West Virginia, Green said.