Conservation officials in New York are encouraging hunters to target and kill an “exotic” non-native species of deer that has been spotted in the state and may potentially infect native animals in the area with a deadly disease.
The New York State Department of Conservation has received several trail photos of a male sika deer, according to a report from New York Upstate. The small elk is native to Japan and eastern Asia, and at least two sources have sent photos to environmental officials.
According to the report, Jerry Grigonis, of Fulton, said he first noticed the deer on his trail camera in Granby, a small town in Oswego County, in November. The sika deer has not been found in New York outside of some sightings on Long Island more than a decade ago.
Officials are concerned the sika deer could carry chronic wasting disease, “a fatal, neurological illness occurring in North American members of the deer family, including white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, and moose,” according to the U.S. Geological Survey. If it does, there is potential that this species could spread the illness to the local white-tailed deer population.
In response, the NYSDEC is encouraging hunters to kill sika deer if they come across one. The deer, which is not protected in New York, can then be tested for the disease to allow health officials to confirm if the malady has spread.
According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, “Sika deer are small members of the elk family that have a dark brown to black coat. Sikas tend to keep their white spots as adults which are more prominent during summer. Males (stags) also have a dark shaggy mane running down their neck. Sika deer have a white rump patch that flares outward when alarmed.
“Proportionally to white-tailed deer, sika deer have shorter snouts and smaller ears. Sika antlers can reach lengths up to 15 inches. Sika stags typically weigh 90 pounds while females weigh around 70 pounds. They are two and a half feet high at the shoulder.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said “the causative agent of Chronic Wasting Disease is “believed to be prions -- abnormal, pathogenic agents that are transmissible and are able to induce abnormal folding of specific normal cellular proteins called prion proteins that are found most abundantly in the brain. The functions of these normal prion proteins are still not completely understood. The abnormal folding of the prion proteins leads to brain damage and the characteristic signs and symptoms of the disease. Prion diseases are usually rapidly progressive and always fatal.”
Anyone with trail camera pictures or seeing the deer has been asked to contact officials by emailing R7Wildlife@dec.ny.gov or to call 607-756-3095.
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