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Hunters Die from Zombie Deer Disease

We know many of our customers are hunters. Hunting can be a fantastic way of getting outdoors and is excellent for the environment.

Although its critics often don’t understand the benefits of hunting, we think it’s important to celebrate the sport after Earth Day! After all, hunting supports conservation efforts. Money raised from hunting licenses, land stamps and other aspects of the sport go toward the environment. And hunting helps manage animal populations and keep ecosystems in balance!

Hunting is an excellent source of nutrition. You get local, free-range meat that has eaten an organic diet. Generally speaking, hunters are helping themselves and the environment!

But recent news is alarming. Two hunters died after eating meat from deer with chronic wasting disease — better known as “zombie deer disease.” They developed similar symptoms and died. It’s not certain that they had the disease, but their symptoms mimicked the illness.

This raises the concern that the illness can be passed from animals to people. Since 2022, scientists have been worried that it might be possible. They have suggested it could be like the mad cow outbreak in the UK in the ‘90s.  

The disease is found in deer, elk and moose in 32 states. Animals with the disease lose weight, drool, are listless, stumble, uncoordinated and don’t appear to be scared of humans.    

One of the hunters was a man in his 70s. He had “rapid-onset confusion and aggression” and died within a month of eating the meat despite treatment.

Both men were at the same lodge, were friends and ate meat from the same deer population but not the same animal. The second man had seizures, agitation and other common symptoms before dying within a month of showing signs of infection.

Doctors on the case say it’s not proven that the meat made the two men ill. However, it’s important to be aware that there may be a risk linked to eating infected deer. Prion diseases, like chronic wasting disease, have long incubation times but then progress very quickly and are always fatal.

If you hunt for venison, find out if chronic wasting disease is in your area and where you would be safest to hunt. Chronic wasting disease can be in an animal’s system but not symptomatic. You may want to change your hunting location. We understand that a hunting season without deer is like fall without football, but it might be time for a hunting trip to a safer area. Or even branching out to a different type of prey this year. While it seems extreme, when it comes to your safety, you have to choose the level of risk you are comfortable with!  

Banner image: Jim Fawns via Pexels

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