Deer CWD Tests Are Negative

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Samples taken the past three months from wild whitetail deer in Iowa have shown no signs of chronic wasting disease, a fatal disease affecting primarily deer and elk that has been found in several states and two Canadian provinces.

The DNR has sampled 150 deer killed on Iowa roadways since monitoring began in April and all tests have come back negative, said Dale Garner, who is heading the DNR's chronic wasting disease (CWD) program. Garner said testing will continue this summer as fresh road killed samples become available. As many as 800 additional samples will be collected this fall from hunter-harvested deer.

Though the disease has some similarities to mad cow disease and scrapie in sheep, CWD apparently affects only deer and elk. The disease attacks the brain of infected deer and elk causing the animals to lose weight, display abnormal behavior, lose body functions and die.

A World Health Organization panel of experts reviewed all available information on CWD and concluded that there is no scientific evidence that CWD can infect humans. There is also no evidence that CWD can be transmitted under natural conditions to cattle.

Occurring primarily in wild deer and elk in northeastern Colorado and adjacent parts of Wyoming, CWD has been diagnosed in wild deer in Nebraska and Saskatchewan and most recently South Dakota, Wisconsin and New Mexico. It has also been found on elk farms in Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma and South Dakota, and Saskatchewan and Alberta, Canada.

The recent discoveries of CWD in Wisconsin, South Dakota and New Mexico have wildlife experts in virtually every state taking a hard look at the relatively new disease, the possible impacts on both wild and captive animals and measures to stop its spread.

Iowa adopted, shortly after the Wisconsin discovery, a ban on the transport of any live deer into the state unless the deer originated from a herd certified to be free of CWD and bovine tuberculosis (BT). Also, hunters cannot transport into Iowa the whole carcass of any cervid (i.e., deer or elk) taken from a CWD endemic area within any state or province. Only the boned-out meat, the cape, and antlers attached to a clean skull plate from which all brain tissue has been removed are legal to transport into Iowa.

The DNR is also working with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and the Iowa Whitetail Deer Association - which represents deer breeders and hunting preserves - to develop a mandatory CWD monitoring program for captive deer breeders and hunting preserves.