CWD found in moose in Alberta

The discovery of a moose with chronic wasting disease in Alberta does not mean the disease will likely spread to other moose, said officials with Alberta Environment.

“CWD is designed to transmit among deer, but not among moose. 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,” said spokesperson Nikki Booth.

The moose was killed in a collision with a vehicle last November along Highway 41, near Medicine Hat, in an area known to have CWD in the wild deer population.

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.

The 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. In those states, the moose share the same infected area as the deer, she said.

Booth said the department has no plans to bring back targeted testing. Before 2009, fish and wildlife staff would shoot deer within a 10 kilometre radius of where a positive wild deer had been discovered in an effort to control the spread and keep it at a stable and low level. That program has ended.

“Nothing is going to be ramped up or changed at this time. We have an ongoing surveillance program in the CWD risk areas where people send in their cervid heads. If people want to send us in their moose heads and elk heads in addition to their wild deer heads, we’re more than happy to take them and test them.”