Mad cow-like disease in deer creeping closer to Indiana

A "mad cow"-like disease found in deer is creeping closer to Indiana.

Chronic wasting disease attacks the brains of deer, causing dementia-like symptoms and eventually leading to death.

Now some scientists nationally are saying evidence is growing that like mad cow, it's possible the disease can spread to humans.

"While there’s never been any documented transmission to humans, there is some new evidence that shows that at least we should be a little more concerned about watching for the disease," said Dr. Joe Caudell, Indiana Department of Natural Resource's state deer research biologist.

Caudell is in charge of monitoring the state's deer population and diseases that may be infecting it.

He's watched the disease slowly spread across Michigan and Illinois for more than a decade. This year, he's seen it just 20 to 25 miles from the Illinois-Indiana border.

Since deer can't be forced to abide by manmade state lines, Caudell says they've stepped up their surveillance in Newton, Benton and southern Lake counties, where deer with the disease in Illinois are closest.

"It’s getting close enough where we feel we should really start kind of watching in that area, just to make certain that we aren’t getting just that natural spread from Illinois," said Caudell.

As deer season winds down​, Indiana DNR is encouraging hunters to plan ahead to take their game by check stations where DNR staff can check for a list of diseases, including CWD.

In Michigan​​, nearly a dozen cases of CWD have been caught over the past two years using this method, helping identify the regions of contamination and preventing hunters from taking contaminated meat home.

In Indiana, it will help them catch the spread of the disease into the state as early as possible.

"Whether it’s bovine tuberculosis surveillance or looking for chronic wasting disease, we can get a lot of samples for a relatively small amount of money, if hunters will bring us their samples and let us test them," said Caudell.