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Report deer diseases if encountered, Nebraska advises hunters

From the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

-- Nebraska hunters should be aware of the possibility of encountering deer diseases when afield this fall, such as chronic wasting disease (CWD), brain worm and deer lice.

None of these diseases is known to be harmful to humans, according to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. However, hunters discovering deer with symptoms for brain worm or deer lice are asked to report them to their local district Game and Parks office.

CWD, discovered in western Nebraska in 2000, is always fatal to deer when contracted. Deer with CWD can range in appearance from healthy looking to thin and rough looking.

Last year biologists sampled 2,983 deer from check stations during the November firearm season, with 43 new CWD positives confirmed. One positive was of unknown species and sex.

Counties with positive deer included  Banner, two; Box Butte, five; Cherry, six; Dawes, five; Deuel, one; Keith, two; Kimball, one; Garden, five; Morrill, one; Scotts Bluff, seven; Sheridan, six; and Sioux, two. An elk taken in Sioux County during the firearm season also tested positive for CWD. Biologists will be taking samples again this year to track the prevalence and distribution of the disease.

Brain worm is a disease is caused by a parasitic worm that lives in the brain of white-tailed deer without harming them. When this worm is eaten by mule deer, it may make them sick and may lead to death. Mule deer with brain worm may be found walking in tight circles, unafraid of humans when approached, throwing their heads or displaying other neurological symptoms. This disease was suspected in the deaths of 133 mule deer in central Nebraska in 2009, where the mule deer and white-tailed deer populations overlap.

Deer lice have begun to infest mule deer in western Nebraska. There have been 10 confirmed cases from Box Butte, Dawson, Frontier, Garden, Grant, Knox, Lincoln and Morrill counties since their discovery in 2008. These lice first were found in Oregon and Washington, and are presumed to have come from fallow deer.

These chewing lice infest mule deer, creating an allergic reaction that leads to the deer scratching and rubbing to relieve itching. Deer with lice may rub off hair, creating a rough look to entire patches of hair missing. Deer eventually may become sick and die from hypothermia related to the loss of their hair coat. Deer sick with lice may appear lethargic, unafraid of humans when approached and in poor condition. Deer lice may be found in large numbers under the legs of infested animals.