The natural occurrence of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in a 1993 cohort of captive white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) afforded the opportunity to describe epidemic dynamics in this species and to compare dynamics with those seen in contemporary cohorts of captive mule deer (O. hemionus) also infected with CWD. The overall incidence of clinical CWD in white-tailed deer was 82% (nine of 11) among individuals that survived >15 mo. Affected white-tailed deer died or were killed because of terminal CWD at age 49–76 mo (x̄=59.6 mo, SE=3.9 mo). Epidemic dynamics of CWD in captive white-tailed deer were similar to dynamics in mule deer cohorts. Incidence of clinical CWD was 57% (4/7) among hand-raised (HR) and 67% (4/6) among dam-raised (DR) mule deer; affected HR mule deer succumbed at 64–86 mo of age (x̄=72 mo; SE=5 mo), and affected DR mule deer died at age 31–58 mo (x̄=41.3 mo; SE=6.1 mo). Sustained horizontal transmission of CWD most plausibly explained epidemic dynamics, but the original source of exposures could not be determined. Apparent differences in mean age at CWD-caused death among these cohorts may be attributable to differences in the timing or intensity of exposure to CWD, and these factors appear to be more likely to influence epidemic dynamics than species differences. It follows that CWD epidemic dynamics in sympatric, free-ranging white-tailed and mule deer sharing habitats in western North American ranges also may be similar.
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Vol. 40 • No. 2