Special CWD testing hunt ends

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85 deer sent in for CWD testing,

samples taken from near Harpers Ferry

Final samples are being submitted for testing for Chronic Wasting Disease after the close of a special collection period for whitetail deer in Allamakee County March 15. Landowners and regular season deer hunters took part in the collection over the past three weeks near Harper’s Ferry. That came after three deer from the area tested positive for CWD in the 2014 hunting season. One 2013 sample, from the same area, also showed positive.

Of 105 deer brought in during the special collection season, tissue samples from 85 adult deer were sent to the National Veterinary Services Lab in Ames for testing. Results from 58 samples, submitted already, have returned with the disease not detected. Adult deer were sought, since the always fatal disease does not show up in testing until the animal is about 18 months old. As results come back, collectors are notified. Any positive deer will be disposed of by the DNR. 

The number of deer sampled is 43 percent of the goal of 200; targeted by the DNR after public meetings last month, to outline the project. A third of the collection area was in Yellow River State Forest; with the remainder on private land. There were 21 collected in the state forest; 64 from private land

“Landowners and local residents were outstanding with cooperation to help secure deer samples in this intensive surveillance effort,” said Terry Haindfield, Iowa DNR Wildlife Biologist in northeast Iowa.  “Weather extremes went from 25 below zero to 65 degrees above, affecting collecting success. The DNR greatly appreciates the public’s interest and the effort put out shooting deer for additional samples.”

CWD is a neurological disease affecting primarily deer and elk. It is caused by an abnormal protein–a prion–that attacks the brains of infected animals, causing them to lose weight, display abnormal behavior and lose bodily functions. Signs include excessive salivation, thirst and urination, loss of appetite, progressive weight loss, listlessness and drooping ears and head. It is always fatal, when an animal contracts it. The additional data is important, to determine the next course of action to slow the disease spread in Iowa.

“It was a slow weekend to close it out, but it gives us more results to work with as we try to keep the disease from spreading,” said DNR Information Specialist Joe Wilkinson. 

The four Allamakee samples, which prompted this winter’s special collection, are the only CWD-positive returns on wild Iowa deer, among 57,000 samples collected since 2002.

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