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Rare condition decimating Canada's elk and deer population

January 2, 2002 CTV Television, Inc
LLOYD ROBERTSON[anchor]: A rare condition is decimating Canada's elk and deer population. It's called chronic wasting disease and it's having the same effect as Mad Cow Disease on cattle in Britain. Officials don't believe it can be transferred to humans, but remember they said that about Mad Cow Disease initially. CTV's wildlife reporter Mark Stevenson has more. MARK STEVENSON [Reporter]: Every year Pat McKinnon and his son Sean hunt for deer. But this season killing deer might save them. The McKinnon's are part of a huge deer cull to stop the spread of chronic wasting disease. A deadly brain disorder found in the deer family similar to Mad Cow Disease.

KEVIN OMOTH [Saskatchewan Environment]: A population crash is possible if nothing is taken to address the situation.

STEVENSON: Chronic Wasting Disease was first found in Saskatchewan in farmed elk. But since then, two cases have been confirmed in wild deer near the Alberta border. Now Saskatchewan has ordered a massive deer cull to determine if the disease has spread. Almost seven thousand elk have been put down, and Ottawa is expected to spend up to $60 million dollars compensating devastated elk farmers. To stop it at the border, Alberta wildlife officers are now collecting deer heads from local animals for testing. Saskatchewan hopes to test as many as 10,000 deer from the fall hunt. There's no risk to domestic livestock. And while it's not supposed to spread to humans, scientists have not ruled it out.

TRENT BOLLINGER [Pathologist]: And there's no evidence it's transmissible to humans, but people are aware of BSE and Mad Cow Disease in Europe. They did not feel that that disease was transmissible to humans but there's pretty good evidence it has jumped from cattle to humans.

STEVENSON: For now the threat is in the wild. Pat MacKinnon and his son are doing their part by doing what they normally do, even if their hunting efforts are in vain. Mark Stevenson, CTV News, near Marsden, Saskatchewan.


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