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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Chronic wasting disease was found in a mule deer shot in Sanpete County in central Utah -- the first time the disease has been identified in Utah outside of the eastern portion.
Leslie MacFarlane, Division of Wildlife Resources' lead biologist on the disease, said the positive tissue sample came from one of five deer killed while eating in a farmer's alfalfa field near Fountain Green.
"None of the five deer looked sick," MacFarlane said.
The disease was first found in Utah deer in February. Some deer herds in neighboring Colorado have been infected for 30 years.
So far, five deer in Utah have been confirmed with the disease.
The latest discovery places the disease in the heart of the state's prime hunting region just weeks before the start of the rifle deer season opener.
"We had already targeted the area (of the latest case) as a place to take samples during the upcoming hunting seasons," MacFarlane said. "Now, we need to try and determine how big the infection area is."
DWR biologists and conservation officers will be collecting samples from deer killed in 17 of the state's 35 wildlife units during the muzzleloader hunt, which starts Wednesday, and the rifle season, which opens Oct. 18. There will be no testing of elk this year.
"We want the public to know that we are watching for this disease and that we are concerned about it," MacFarlane said.
Wildlife officials say there is no evidence of CWD passing to humans, but suggest hunters avoid taking animals that appear sick and to use caution when handling carcasses.
Infected game may appear skinny and disoriented, exhibit decreased wariness and salivate excessively. Hunters are urged to report suspect animals to the nearest DWR office.
Rubber or latex gloves should be worn when field dressing the animal. Hunters should avoid handling the brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen and lymph nodes. Hunters should carefully clean their hands and any other part of their body that comes in contact with the animal.
MacFarlane suggests hunters also sterilize knives used for field dressing their animals. She suggests soaking the knife in a 50/50 mixture of water and bleach for an hour.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)