Idaho Fish and Game warns of rise in chronic wasting disease

The IDFG is asking hunters for help as the agency monitors the disease.

BOISE, Idaho – The Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) warns of an increase in cases of chronic wasting disease in deer this year.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a neurological condition that occurs in animals, causing excessive salivation, drooping of the head or ears, tremors, low body weight, and odd behavior such as not being afraid of humans or a lack of coordination.

Animals can be infected for months or even years before showing symptoms, according to the IDFG. The disease is always fatal and there is no treatment or vaccine available.

Chronic wasting disease was first detected in Idaho last year, when five animals, including mule deer, white-tailed deer and elk, tested positive for the virus in the unit of hunt 14, located in Idaho County between Riggins and Grangeville. Now that the disease is in the Gems state, the IDFG said, hunters will need to be more aware of the disease and the rules that come with it.

Unit 14 and Unit 15 are designated as a chronic wasting disease management area, which means:

  • Hunters harvesting a deer, elk or moose in a CWD management area must have the animals tested for CWD by depositing the head (antlers may be removed) at a designated drop site. Here is a map of drop site locations.
  • Carcasses or any part of a deer, elk or moose harvested in units 14 or 15 cannot be transported out of these units, with the exception of quarters or boneless meat which does not include not brains or spinal tissue, and edible organs that do not include brains. To see other exceptions, go to CWD Rules Webpage.

The IDFG said more hunting units could be added to Idaho’s chronic wasting disease management area, if the disease spreads to other areas. They will continue to monitor chronic wasting disease across the state, to make sure they catch any cases that are outside of the management zone.

Detection efforts will be focused on units near the borders of Utah, Wyoming and Montana, all states with known cases of MDC. A map of the units requiring sampling this year is available on the CWD monitoring webpage.

Although the IDFG requires hunters harvesting deer, elk or moose in the chronic wasting disease management area to be tested for the disease, it is not recommended that hunters bring animals killed from outside this area to be tested. They also recommend not eating meat from animals that test positive for CWD.

According to the Center for Disease Control, it is not known whether prions from an animal infected with CWD can spread to humans; as of 2021, no known chronic wasting disease infections have been reported in humans, but non-human primates such as monkeys have caught the disease by eating infected meat.

For hunters who need to have their deer, elk or moose tested, a head or lymph node sample must be taken to a regional fish and game office or other designated sample collection site. Only lymph nodes or the brainstem can be tested for disease, not muscle or meat, and it can take around six weeks to get results.

Hunters can also request a CWD test sample kit if they wish to extract the lymph nodes themselves and have them tested. IDFG provides free kits and tests; the kits will be provided by IDFG by mail or at regional officesbut delivery will take about one week.

There are no live tests, vaccines, or cures for CWD. Eliminating it from the environment is nearly impossible, but the IDFG hopes to contain and manage the disease through early detection.

To minimize the spread, Fish and Game biologists aim to contain the disease to a small geographic area. Ideally, they would like to see levels below 2%, as a higher rate would be more likely to spread.

Some states with CDW-positive deer and elk populations have documented long-term declines and changes in herd age structure, resulting in fewer bucks and mature bulls when the disease was not present. managed.

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