TOPEKA (AP) — Wildlife experts are trying to determine whether Kansas’ deer population is contracting an unusual type of contagious foot disease at a higher than average rate.

The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism is working with the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study lab at the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine. The question is whether the condition is foot rot and why it appears to be more prevalent, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

Counties with reports include Butler, Lyon, Woodson, Neosho, Phillips, Cowley, Wilson, Bourbon, Anderson, Geary, Dickinson, Elk, Osage and Decatur.

“It is new to me this year and has always been said to be a rarity, but it does not appear to be rare this year in Kansas,” said Tim Donges, president of the Quality Deer Management Association.

Some causes for the potential foot rot could be bacteria entering and infecting injured hooves, stressed post-rut animals and wetter soil that could lead to hoof infections, said Shane Hesting, the wildlife department’s disease coordinator.

Hunters and other members of the public are asked to report any potential cases of foot rot to Hesting.

“If this is indeed foot rot, we need to educate the hunters and public on it, so they can accurately try and report it,” Donges said. “I am guessing this thing will be mainly the eastern half the state. Hunters (may have) never heard of deer getting foot rot before, so I think this is something new for the Kansas hunters to be able to identify, then report it.”

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