Chronic wasting disease, a fatal disease that attacks the central nervous system in deer and elk, has been found in white-tailed deer in parts of the state. Chronic wasting disease comes from the same family as mad cow disease but is not known to affect humans.
This is the first incidence of the disease east of the Mississippi River and has state officials, tourism businesses and hunters worried.
The fall deer season usually draws about 700,000 hunters, who last year spent $233 million, providing an economic windfall in parts of the state and for over 500 white-tailed deer farms.
In late March, the state Department of Natural Resources issued special hunting permits to locate and test potentially infected deer. Some hunters in the area have seen deer that are thin and exhibit behavior common to infected animals.
The state has also introduced tighter controls on farm-raised deer and elk, halting most imports from other states. So far tests on wild and farm-raised elk herds have been negative. And Gov. McCallum has requested more than $14.7 million in federal funding for the next five years to pay for chronic wasting disease testing and monitoring.