Deer Discovered at Yellowstone Park Died of Rare ‘Zombie’ Disease

Officials said it is a "contagious, fatal disease" in a recent press release



A rare condition, coined as the “zombie” disease, has reached deer in Yellowstone National Park for the first time, according to officials.

In a press release from earlier this week, Yellowstone National Park and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department announced that they found the first recorded instance of “chronic wasting disease,” also known as “zombie” disease. The case was found in an adult mule deer buck that was previously part of a study in Wyoming.

“The mule deer buck was originally captured by WGFD staff near Cody, Wyoming, in March 2023 as part of a population dynamics study and fitted with a GPS collar,” the press release read. “The collar signaled the animal died mid-October 2023.”

Related: Sighting of Deer in Collar with 'Pet' Painted on Its Body Prompts Warning from Mo. Officials

Going forward, officials say Yellowstone staff must take precautions to prevent the spread of the disease now that it has reached the area. These measures include increased testing in deer, elk and moose, as well as heightened surveillance of the park.

“CWD is a contagious, fatal disease of deer, elk and moose caused by a malformed protein (prion) for which there is no vaccine or known treatment,” according to the press release.



The first known case of CWD was in the 1980s in Wyoming, and although it has spread throughout the state, it hadn’t been known to exist in Yellowstone until now.

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Symptoms of the illness include “listlessness, weight loss, increased drinking and urinating, excessive drooling and head lowering,” followed oftentimes by death.

It can be spread both directly and indirectly through particles of the disease, and long-term effects are still unknown, officials say.

There is also currently “no evidence” that CWD can spread to humans or only among wild animals, but the CDC urges people to be cautious.

"Since 1997, the World Health Organization has recommended that it is important to keep the agents of all known prion diseases from entering the human food chain," the CDC says.

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