Deadly deer disease spreading across Midwest

Chronic wasting disease has been in parts of the Great Plains and Midwest since at least 2000, and continues to spread throughout the region.


National News

October 30, 2023 - 5:36 PM

Chronic wasting disease — a fatal illness that eats away at the brains of deer, elk and moose — threatens wildlife and hunting economies across the Midwest and Great Plains. Photo by Nebraska Land Magazine/Nebraska Game And Parks Commission

After about 40 years of hunting in his home state, for the first time John Heaston killed a deer that tested positive for chronic wasting disease just last year.

As head of the Nebraska Sportsmen’s Foundation, Heaston has had plenty of conversations about the fatal, infectious disease that eats away at the brains of deer and elk. But the positive test still came as a surprise: the deer had looked healthy.

“It’s kind of everybody’s job to stay on top of this,” he said. “It’s not like you can bring all the deer in for a checkup every year and give them a booster shot or vaccination.”