Iowa On The Lookout for Chronic Wasting Disease in Deer

By: Iowa Department of Natural Resources Email
By: Iowa Department of Natural Resources Email

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is increasing it's surveillance for chronic wasting disease in deer.

For a decade, DNR wildlife workers and other volunteers have combed the countryside during Iowa’s shotgun deer seasons; collecting samples to test for the deadly Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). That effort will expand this year, to concentrate on portions of Wapello, Davis, Pottawattamie and Cerro Gordo counties, following positive tests from deer in hunting preserves and breeding facilities there this summer and fall.

“We will do some added surveillance of free ranging deer here (Davis, Wapello counties), in Pottawattamie County and in eastern Iowa, too,” outlined Dr. Dale Garner, DNR wildlife bureau chief at a November meeting with landowners and hunters in Bloomfield.

Iowa’s first positive CWD test was confirmed this year; from a buck taken at a shooting preserve just north of Bloomfield.

Many of the samples will be collected during the first half of December, as more than 120,000 hunters take part in Iowa’s shotgun deer seasons.

“Our goal is to obtain 300 samples from a five mile radius around the facility. We will also obtain another 200 between Bloomfield and Ottumwa; as well as added samples from Jefferson, Van Buren and Monroe counties,” outlined district DNR wildlife supervisor Bill Ohde, noting they need to know the section from which the deer was harvested, also. “We want adult animals. We will not cut into a trophy buck that is to be mounted.”

Sampling—which involves removing and testing the brain stem and lymph nodes--has been done on free ranging deer across Iowa for years. That attention has been heaviest in northeast Iowa, after Wisconsin and Illinois yielded positive cases in recent years. Sampling there will continue at a slightly lower intensity, to accommodate the additional testing in Davis and Wapello Counties. Since 2002, samples have been taken from 42,557 wild deer in Iowa; with no positive CWD result and from 2,630 animals from hunting preserves, before the positives were returned this year.

Most samples are obtained by wildlife staff, checking with hunters in the field or at home processing points. Others are obtained at meat lockers. In a few instances, sampling is done at pre-announced stations. One will be at Lake Wapello State Park on Dec. 1 and 2, from noon to 6 p.m. Hunters may contact Jeff Glaw (641-799-0793) or Bill Ohde (319-591-1244) for information about the station or if they harvest an adult deer in Davis or Wapello counties.

“We are hopeful CWD has not spread. The only way to know this is to collect samples and do the testing. We will work through all hunting seasons; with the peak being the shotgun seasons in December,” said Garner.

Anyone observing a sick deer is asked to contact their local conservation officer or a wildlife biologist, so that a sample can be obtained.


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