South Dakota Begins Another Round of CWD Testing

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Deer and elk hunting seasons in South Dakota bring with them the start of another round of tests for chronic wasting disease.

In South Dakota, surveillance for CWD takes place in counties where elk and deer have been discovered with the disease. Those areas include the Black Hills, and Fall River, Custer and Pennington counties. Surveillance will take place for a second year in the East River counties of Deuel and Grant due to the discovery of CWD-infected deer at a captive facility in Minnesota.

Hunters who receive a license for one of the counties where CWD surveillance occurs will be notified by mail by the S.D. Game, Fish and Parks Department with details concerning participation, drop-off points and testing procedures. Hunters who participate by dropping off an elk head or deer head will be notified about the test results.

"We couldn't do this surveillance project on such a large scale without the help of hunters," said GFP Big Game Biologist Steve Griffin. "Their participation shows just how concerned hunters are about protecting the state’s natural resources."

Since 1997, 39 deer and 19 elk have tested positive for CWD in South Dakota. During that time, more than 14,800 animals have been tested for the disease.

CWD is a fatal brain disease found in both captive and free-ranging elk and deer. In the disease's late stages, infected animals become emaciated, behave abnormally, lose control of muscles and other bodily functions and die.

Any elk or deer showing signs of CWD should be reported. "Please contact Game, Fish and Parks if you see an animal displaying the signs of CWD," Griffin said. "We'll always try to sample sick or suspect deer or elk, no matter what time of year, no matter where in the state that animal may be located."

For more information about the CWD surveillance program, contact the GFP Regional Office in Rapid City at (605) 394-2391 or visit the department's Web site at http://www.sdgfp.info/Wildlife/hunting/BigGame/CWD.htm.

The state effort is part of the National CWD Surveillance Program with testing for the disease in South Dakota taking place at the diagnostic lab at South Dakota State University, Brookings. Hunters who want deer from outside of the surveillance areas tested for the disease should contact the diagnostic lab directly.