Voluntary CWD Testing Offers License Draw Opportunity

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Hunters who provide deer and elk heads for chronic wasting disease testing this year will be entered in a drawing for either one Valle Vidal elk license or one oryx license authorization for 2004-2005. The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish will collect tissue samples from deer and elk heads for voluntary CWD testing at a number of locations statewide.

Department offices in Raton, Las Cruces, Albuquerque, Roswell and hatcheries at Glenwood, Seven Springs, Red River, Lisboa and Parkview are open 8 a.m. -5 p.m. Monday through Friday for sample collection. Conservation officers will collect samples in the field on patrol or at roadblocks set up during hunting seasons.

This program is voluntary, except for the Unit 19 deer hunt in the Organ Mountains Oct. 25-29. Hunters are required to check-in, checkout and allow the Department to sample tissues from deer harvested during that hunt. Department biologists will staff sampling collection stations at Baylor Canyon Trailhead for that hunt and at the McGregor Range Nov. 1-2.

Two deer tested positive for CWD last January during the muzzleloader hunt in the Organ Mountains; a total of six deer have tested positive from the White Sands Missile Range area since spring 2002. Chronic wasting disease first was documented in New Mexico in June 2002 in a wild deer at the missile range. Department biologists stepped up testing and surveillance of the disease following that incident, focusing on deer but testing elk tissues as well.

No cases of chronic wasting disease in elk have been documented in New Mexico to date. Testing for CWD is part of a continuing effort by the Department to track and monitor the spread of chronic wasting disease within the state. The Department will alert any hunter who harvests an animal that tests positive.

The elk or oryx license authorizations will be issued to two hunters in a random drawing from a list of hunters who provide a fresh and legally harvested deer or elk head to any Department collection station for CWD testing. The authorizations may be given away, sold or bartered and are not once-in-a-lifetime hunts. Testing will not affect heads for mounting.

No evidence exists that chronic wasting disease can be transmitted to humans by consuming meat, however, some precautions are recommended. Hunters are advised not to shoot an animal that is acting abnormal or looks sick and to wear rubber gloves while field-dressing game. Bone out the meat, minimize contact with the brain and spinal cord and don't eat deer or elk brains, tonsils, tongue or spinal cord. More information and a Department brochure on CWD are available at area offices and at www.gmfsh.state.nm.us.

For more information on sampling locations, contact the nearest Game and Fish office for the area you are hunting: Roswell, 624-6135; Raton, 445-2311; Las Cruces, 522-9796; and Albuquerque, 841-8881.