Deer Hunters Asked to Help with CWD Surveillance

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North Dakota Game and Fish Department officials are asking deer hunters to assist in monitoring for the potential occurrence of chronic wasting disease. Hunters can help by stopping at collection sites throughout the season and providing samples from their deer, according to Jacquie Ermer, department wildlife disease biologist.

Game and fish is expanding its Hunter-Harvested Surveillance program by sampling 1,500 deer for CWD in the southern half of the state this fall. In 2002, samples were taken from 470 deer in eastern and southwestern North Dakota. All samples tested negative.

To get the needed samples, biologists will remove the heads of deer that are at least one-and-a-half years old. Hunters will be notified only if a sample tests positive, Ermer said. "Test results could take 3-4 months," she added. "There is no quick field test."

While scientists will be on the lookout for CWD, they'll also test deer for tuberculosis and other maladies to monitor the health of the state's deer population.

The state is divided into eight CWD surveillance units. Samples from hunter-harvested deer will be taken from animals this fall in five of those areas, comprising 26 deer hunting units:

* Surveillance Unit 1 is made up of hunting unit 2B;

* Surveillance Unit 3 is made up of hunting units 2A, 2F1, 2F2, 2G, 2G1 and 2G2;

* Surveillance Unit 5 is made up of hunting units 2H, 2I, 2J1, 2J2, 3B3 and 3C;

* Surveillance Unit 7 is made up of hunting units 3B2, 3D1, 3D2, 3E1, 3E2, 3F1, 3F2 and 4A;

* Surveillance Unit 8 is made up of hunting units 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E and 4F.

Collection sites are open Nov. 8 and 9. Locations are: south of Tesoro truck stop in Belfield; Highway 85 weigh station in Bowman; Game and Fish Department, Bismarck; Stop-N-Go, Carrington; Coopers Implement, Cooperstown; Cenex, Edgeley; Coffee Cup, Steele; Turtle River State Park entrance; and Tesoro gas station, Wyndmere.

During the remainder of the season, heads can be dropped off at game and fish offices in Dickinson, Bismarck, Riverdale and Jamestown during regular business hours.

Also, meat processors participating in surveillance efforts are Weber's Meats, Reynolds; Casselton Cold Storage, Casselton; Schmitty's Deer Processing, Davenport; Edgeley Meat Processing, Edgeley; Brenno Meats, Sheyenne; West Dakota Meats, Bismarck; Larry's Meat Processing, Mott; Dakota Packaging Company, Hettinger; Kuntz's Butcher Shop, Glen Ullin; Double R Meats, Carson; and Ken's Jack and Jill, Turtle Lake.

Special transportation tags will be given to hunters who donate heads so they can legally transport deer to their final destinations.

Chronic wasting disease affects the nervous system of white-tailed deer, mule deer and elk and is fatal. Scientists have found no evidence that CWD can be transmitted naturally to humans or livestock.

The goal is to obtain 458 samples from animals in each of the surveillance units, which could take two to three years to accomplish, Ermer said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture provided funding to help with surveillance efforts in North Dakota where, to date, scientists have not diagnosed CWD in wild or farmed deer and elk. To be more efficient and cost effective if CWD is ever discovered, game and fish developed a mobile lab to help collect and process samples from wild animals anywhere in the state.

More information on CWD can be found by logging into the game and fish website at discovernd.com.