By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

The scourge of deer continues its dreaded spread.

Four new cases of the always-fatal brain-wasting disease have surfaced, according to the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.

Those four are on top of six other cases that now have been confirmed by additional testing in Iowa, according to Mike Miller, information chief for KDWP.

That makes 10 cases of CWD this year -- all of them white-tailed deer and 2 1βΡ2 to 3 years old -- equal to what was discovered last year. Only about half of the samples collected this year have run through the testing process.

All of the infected deer discovered this year hail from northwest Kansas.

The four that have initially tested positive came from Decatur, Rawlins and Logan counties. The six confirmed cases came from Decatur, Rawlins, Thomas, Graham and Sheridan counties.

This is the first time infected deer have been found in Logan, Thomas and Graham counties.

Decatur County, however, is proving to be ground zero for the disease, with four coming from there already this year. Last year, five infected deer came from Decatur County.

All of the animals brought to Oberlin's Patrick Inman for testing appeared to be healthy.

"None of them appeared unhealthy to me," Inman said Thursday, a day after being told of the positive results.

Inman said one of the four came from the southwest part of Decatur County, a first, and was the first animal he tested for the year, coming from a bow kill.

The other three came from northeast of Oberlin, one from a road-kill and the other two killed by hunters.

Previous discoveries all have come from an area northeast of Oberlin, along Sappa Creek.

Decatur's predominance in CWD discoveries isn't being greeted with much concern.

"They don't seem overly worried," Inman said of people hunting deer. "But then, I have people who are not consuming it until they have the results. There's a few, they're not concerned at all."

Some, he said, are unsure.

"They ask me if they can go ahead and eat it," he said. "How do I answer that?"

Inman said he's not inclined to make suggestions either way, instead letting people know they should do some research and make a decision on their own.

Inman has been relatively busy gathering samples.

So far this year, he's collected about 45 samples for testing, and has about a dozen left to send in. He's also been told to go ahead with sampling through the end of July, taking any road-kill samples that he can get. Last year, he collected more than 50 samples.

It's unlikely KDWP will sample the area like they did a couple years ago, Miller said.

Inman was told the same thing and is happy with that response.

"I don't want to see them come in and shoot a couple hundred for statistics," he said.

But there's beginning to be some talk, mainly among farmers, that the area has simply too many deer.

Inman said he was out quite a bit this year, but didn't see an animal big enough to warrant him shooting it.

That's not to say there aren't any big animals, however. There are, he said, but there's also plenty of smaller animals.

Inman said he told KDWP's Lloyd Fox that Decatur County has a lot of young bucks, and every doe has twins or one fawn at her side.

"I hate to say it, and I probably shouldn't say it to someone from the media, but I think this is going to be a particularly good deer season next year."

Bad weather this year cut back on hunter success, he said, both for deer and pheasants.