The geysers aren’t the one thing foaming on the mouth.
Yellowstone National Park officials are warning travelers to avoid wildlife after a “zombie” deer was found dead near Yellowstone Lake, a hotspot contained in the heavily-visited natural landmark.
The deceased adult mule deer suffered from chronic wasting disease, or CWD, a contagious and fatal sickness that infects deer, reindeer, elk and moose, causing zombie-like symptoms including excessive drooling, drooping ears, head tremors, teeth grinding, and reluctance to maneuver.
There may be currently no vaccine or known treatment for the disease.
The deer, previously captured and tagged by the state’s Game and Fish Department (WGFD) in March, died sometime in October, based on its GPS collar.
Officials collected the carcass for testing on the Wildlife Health Laboratory where samples tested positive for CWD.
The rare disease has been detected in free-ranging and captive animals in no less than 31 US states, two Canadian provinces, South Korea, and in Europe, where it up to now has impacted reindeer and moose.
CWD has been spreading through Wyoming because the ’80s and currently infects 10 to fifteen percent of mule deer in Wyoming, but has never before been recorded within the national park.
Animals can contract the disease through direct animal-to-animal contact, or not directly by contact with an infected environment corresponding to feces, soil or vegetation.
It may well take greater than a 12 months for animals to develop symptoms and a few animals may die without ever fully showing signs of the disease.
“The long-term effect of CWD on deer, elk and moose within the Yellowstone area is uncertain,” the National Park Serviced warned. Officials noted, nevertheless, that “there may be currently no evidence that CWD can infect humans or domestic animal species.”
Still, experts warn that infected meat mustn’t enter the food chain.
Officials plan to step up testing and monitoring efforts.