Disease suspected to be killing deer in part of the state

A white tail deer. (Wikimedia commons photo)

Connecticut wildlife experts put out a call to hunters that they want their deer heads.

The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection wants to test them for a deadly disease that as of right now doesn't exist in the state.

Thursday marked opening season for bow and arrow hunters.

State wildlife scientist Andy Labonte said he's harvesting tissue samples from deer heads to test for Chronic wasting disease, an affliction he hopes never finds its way into Connecticut.

"The deer a lot of times comes down with pneumonia, and like it's named, wastes away," Labonte said. "[The] deer becomes emaciated and rib cage showing."

Labonte said the request for heads is precautionary. He said the disease decimates herds out west.

It's never been found in Connecticut.

"Where it occurs it is serious," said Howard Kilpatrick, wildlife biologist. "There's no cure for it, there's no treatment for it and if deer get it they will die."

They also don't know how it spreads.

The disease infects elk, white-tailed deer and mule deer. It's not know to infect livestock or humans.

"If the disease exists, it's easier to contain it or slow the spread of it by keeping deer density at a low level," Kilpatrick said.

State wildlife experts said they can expect hunters on Thursday to harvest about 400 deer.

Archery instructor Mark Hall of Andover said part of his 8 hour course is to inform bow hunters about Chronic wasting disease in deer.

"To my knowledge they haven't had any problems here," Hall said. "But [it's] been very close by and this is a disease that can devastate a deer herd in a short period of time."

Experts also test deer that are killed by vehicles.

The program itself is a national one, underwritten by Washington in hopes of keeping the disease from spreading.

What is known about the disease can be found here.

Copyright 2016 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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