Michael Pearce

Ten new cases of wasting disease found in Kansas deer herd

By Michael Pearce

The Wichita Eagle

The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism has announced of 640 deer tested for chronic wasting disease last fall and winter, 10 tested positive for the disease that’s always fatal in members of the deer family.

According to Shane Hesting, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism wildlife disease coordinator, the positives came from two mule deer and eight whitetails from Rawlins, Scott, Decatur, Norton, Meade, Hodgeman Kearny and Gray counties in western Kansas. A whitetail from Pawnee County, in central Kansas, also tested for the disease. That brings the total of tested deer with the disease to 74, of more than 25,000 tissue samples since sampling began in 1996. Kansas’ first positive in a wild deer was in 2005, in extreme northwest Kansas. Since, the disease has progressively moved south and east.

To date no positives have been located in the immediate Wichita area. The closest was probably from Stafford County several years ago, about 90 straight-line miles from Wichita.

Hesting said federal grants allowed biologists to sample deer from southwest and south-central Kansas this year. The deer from Rawlins and Decatur counties, in northwest Kansas, were tested because they appeared ill. The deer from Norton County, also in northwest Kansas, was submitted to testing by the hunter who shot it.

The biologist also said that about 68 percent of the deer that have tested positive for the disease since 2005 have been from Decatur, Norton, Rawlins or Sheridan counties.

Chronic wasting disease was first diagnosed in the area along the Colorado/Wyoming border in the 1960s, but spread little for about 20 years. Now, it’s found in more than a dozen states, some as far east as New York. Biologists think the spread has been accelerated by the movement of captive deer, and by hunters shooting an infected deer in a western state, then discarding the bones in their home state.

CWD primarily lives in the bones, brains and glands of infected deer. To date, it’s never been transferred to humans or livestock.

Other updates

July 31-Aug. 2, the Kansas Rack and Reel Show will be held at the Kansas Star Casino, near Mulvane. Marcus Montgomery, show co-director, said it’s their first show at the casino, but they plan to follow the format they’ve used the past 18 years for shows in Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas.

“Basically we’re kind of a fun family festival,” he said. “We try to have a little bit of something for everyone.”

Montgomery said one of the main draws should be about $75,000 in hunting and fishing trips given away as door prizes. The trips, for one person, include grouse hunting or fishing in Michigan or fishing in Ontario. Other attractions include a pop-up 3-D archery target range, a people’s choice trophy deer contest and a display of some of the world’s largest shed deer antlers.

I got some great fishing reports from below the dams at several eastern Kansas reservoirs last week. People were catching the usual wipers, walleye, channel cat and drum. Some of the neatest stories, though, came from reputable guys catching quite a few nice flatheads on big plastic swimbaits. Some of their catches went up to 60 pounds, and 30-pounders were pretty common below Perry and Clinton reservoirs.

Unfortunately the outflow at most of the lakes has been decreased enough to hurt the fishing success. Fish caught at the spillways include those washed from the reservoirs and those drawn from downstream.

I saw my first brood of little quail over the weekend. There were about eight or nine young birds, about the size of sparrows, that could fly about 20 to 30 yards. I was out working our puppy but I steered him away from that area fearing he might catch one of the young birds in the tall grass.

Thursday morning was the first when I saw some nice-sized flocks of doves along the roads by some harvested wheat fields. It obviously wasn’t because a cool morning had them flocked up and ready to migrate. They just normally start getting into flocks after the young have fledged. One bunch probably had 18 to 20 doves in it. Seeing the birds really got me thinking about the Sept. 1 dove season opener.

Upcoming coverage

Sunday’s Outdoors page should have a feature on some buddies who beat the summer heat by heading out at night, and wading around in sometimes knee-deep muck and mud, while being attacked by mosquitoes. So it goes when you’re serious about catching a bunch of bullfrogs.

The page will also probably have more details about Kansas’ chronic wasting disease situation and the outdoors show, and maybe another news brief, too.

Down the road, I’m still struggling to get things lined up for a story on Sandhills State Park, near Hutchinson. I’ve been working for about a year, off and on, on the project and things keep falling through. It’s been too hot, it’s been too wet, it’s been a time when most of the staff is on vacation. Hopefully later on this month.

I’m having about as much luck wrangling some time with some Kansas fish growers who are really busy trying to get ponds and lakes re-stocked after the drought.

Plans are for an Outdoors page article about a Kansas fly-tier who produces some amazing looking flies made from deer hair. Seriously, some are so pretty and lifelike I could never tie one on the end of a tippet.

I’m also planning a column on looking back on when I saw my first deer in Kansas 50 years ago this fall. At the time, it was a danged big deal. I know it was a major accomplishment in my young life...even if my second-grade teacher didn’t believe me. You’ll read more about Mrs. Finch, probably.

Another column will be on my fears Kansas is headed towards later and later duck seasons, which can leave the average hunter looking at iced-coated marshes and ponds.

Michael’s world

I spent a few days last week on and around our farm north of Lawrence. It’s amazing how good I am at growing food plots and other habitat when it rains about every third day. I was afraid our main clover patch would be choked with weeds and grass because we hadn’t mowed it yet this spring or summer. The grass was kind of high, but probably 80 percent of the plot was still clover. I’ll probably wait another year, kill it out and replant it with some oats that fall.

My garden is more of a mystery than any I’ve had in these last eight or so years. Twelve hours after planting, every tomato plant I put in the ground looked sick and stayed that way for days. I planted about eight more, and they just sat there for several weeks. Now we’re getting some growth and some tomatoes, but I’d say we’ll be about a full month later than normal getting our first BLTs of the summer. (That’s my favorite meal.)

I have green beans plants crawling all over. Seriously, I keep having to cut them away from tomato cages and the fence around our yard. There are hundreds of blooms, but I’ve yet to see a green bean growing. Next spring I think I’ll bring in a bunch more dirt, get a soil test and try to get things healthy again.

At least training Cade, our three-month-old Lab puppy is keeping me occupied when I’m not working. In most phases of the training process he’s ahead of schedule. There are one or two things, though, that have me stumped.

I guess the main thing is that he’s from a solid bloodline, is smart and has a high desire to please and fit in with the back.

Now, if he’d just quit crashing his head into the glass storm door every morning when I let him out to fetch the newspaper. He gets more excited getting to do that little chore than most Labs do running down a winged pheasant.

I have no clue why that one thing gets him so excited, other than he’s just being a puppy.


Michael Pearce