Six deer likely had disease

As many as six deer shot during recent seasons in northwest Kansas are expected to have carried chronic wasting disease.

Mike Miller, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks information chief, said the deer were part of about 800 tested for the disease at a K-State laboratory.

The six samples that tested positive were shipped to Iowa for verification at a federal facility.

Miller said about 2,300 tissue samples were taken through assorted hunting seasons. Most were killed by hunters and a few were from vehicle-deer accidents or dead deer found by biologists.

Chronic wasting disease is fatal when contracted by deer, elk and moose. It hasn't been documented in domestic livestock or humans.

One safe year — There were no hunting-related fatalities during the 2009 Kansas seasons.

That's down from three fatalities in 2008, said Wayne Doyle, Wildlife and Parks hunter education coordinator.

That's the first no-fatality year since 2006 and the fourth since 2000. Over the past 20 years, Kansas has averaged about one hunting-related fatality.

Historically, most accidents happened when a hunter was swinging on a flying pheasant or quail and shot a hunting partner.

Bright orange caps and vests are more common and help hunters spot one another when swinging their shotguns. On-going educational programs that stress knowing the locations of hunting partners are also getting credit.

Doyle said most hunting accidents are now caused by careless gun handling.

Big-game commissioners permits, which are given to conservation and sporting groups as fund-raisers, will be drawn at Thursday's Wildlife and Parks commission meeting.

Last year, about $35,000 was raised with the program. The awarded groups keep about 15 percent of the sales. The remaining funds go towards Wildlife and Parks-approved conservation projects.

No more than one of the permits can be for elk and antelope. Permits allow the buyer to hunt that animal during any open season with any legal weapon.

Sheila Kemmis, permit program coordinator, said last year's top money-raiser was a deer permit that sold for about $6,500. Kemmis said all of the permits sold for around $5,000.

Also at the meeting, commissioners will vote on small changes in the big game and wild turkey application systems. They'll also vote on a department request to establish June 5-6 as days when fishing permits aren't required on Kansas waters. Discussion will also be heard on the 2010 deer, elk and antelope seasons.