|On January 30 and 31, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) captured 35 deer (27 bucks and eight does) on the LaSal Mountains east of Moab. The deer became part of a three-year deer movement and behavior study that is underway in southeastern Utah.
DWR biologists hope the study will shed some light on how chronic wasting disease (CWD) is transmitted among deer.
Lead researcher Leslie McFarlane, wildlife disease specialist for the DWR, contracted with Pathfinder Helicopters to help capture the deer, which were fitted with radio collars and were released. Deer were caught on the north, east and south ends of the LaSal Mountains. Placing radio collars on the deer in these different areas will provide researchers with a balanced picture of the animals' movements across the mountain range.
The radio collars were fitted with Very High Frequency (VHF) and Global Positioning System (GPS) transmitters that will allow McFarlane to locate animals by aircraft or satellite. The GPS points she takes will be used to examine the movements of deer in relation to areas where CWD-infected deer have been found on the LaSals.
Capturing the 35 deer marks the beginning of the second year of the study, which is designed to study the movements, migration and reproductive behavior of mule deer on the LaSal Mountains. McFarlane is hoping the study will provide her with the information she needs to draw conclusions about whether the movements of deer, and the congregation of deer in various areas during different times of the year, is tied to the transmission of CWD.
Since the fall of 2002, almost 10,300 deer in Utah have been tested for CWD. Of those, 26 have tested positive for the disease. Eighteen of the positive animals came from the LaSal Mountains, where it's estimated that two percent of the buck population has been affected.
CWD is a neurological disorder that is fatal to deer and elk that contract it. There is currently no evidence that the disease can be transmitted to humans, however.
For more information about CWD, visit the DWR's website at wildlife.utah.gov/hunting/biggame/cwd.
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