The discovery of a moose with chronic wasting disease in Alberta does not mean the disease will spread to other moose, say Alberta Environment officials.
“CWD is designed to transmit among deer, but not among moose,” said department spokesperson Nikki Booth.
“An individual moose can become infected from spillover from infected deer. There is no evidence or reason to believe the disease can or will establish a sustaining nucleus of disease in moose and transmit from moose to moose to moose.”
The moose was killed in a collision with a vehicle last November on Highway 41 near Medicine Hat, in an area known to have CWD in the wild deer population. Government officials released the information Feb. 19.
As part of the government’s CWD surveillance program, hunters must submit heads from deer shot in 33 wildlife management units along the Alberta and Saskatchewan border and in the Battle River and Red Deer River valleys.
Booth said the government tests emaciated cervids and cervids that are “opportunistically available,” including ones that have collided with vehicles. She doesn’t believe the moose was emaciated.
Margo Pybus, wildlife disease specialist with Alberta’s Fish and Wildlife, said CWD in a moose is rare, even in Colorado where moose share range with deer that have 35 percent prevalence of CWD.
The Alberta government has tested more than 51,000 cervids for the brain wasting disease since 1998. There have been 149 confirmed cases in wild deer.
This is the first positive case of a moose in Canada. Moose in Colorado and Wyoming have tested positive for the disease.
“They still only spike the occasional case in a moose,” Pybus said.“We don’t think moose go nose to nose with mule deer. The way these moose are getting infected are through prions that are contaminating the ground.”
The moose contracted the disease in an area where white-tailed and mule deer have been known to have had the disease since 2006.
“What this moose is telling us is that we have enough CWD prions shed into the environment sufficient to have resulted in this individual moose being infected. We don’t believe that is going to roar through the moose population. It may be years before we see another case in a moose. It literally is spillover from the infected deer,” said Pybus.