CWD under controlTransporting deer, elk and moose is going to become much harder with the possible threat of transmitting chronic wasting disease.
By: Royal McGregor, The Dickinson Press
Transporting deer, elk and moose is going to become much harder with the possible threat of transmitting chronic wasting disease.
CWD is primarily found in the brain and spinal cord of deer, elk and moose. The North Dakota Game and Fish Department has found two cases of chronic wasting disease near the North and South Dakota border. The specific hunting unit is 3F2, which includes Bowman, Adams, Sioux and Hettinger counties.
“Basically it’s a prion, which is a fancy name for a protein, and it starts attacking the brain,” Big Game Biologist Brett Wiedmann said. “It turns the brain into basically a sponge and attacks the central nervous system.
“It’s not quite a virus, but it acts similar to a virus. It can be passed through fecal material, urine and saliva.”
Wildlife veterinarian Dan Grove said North Dakota has been fortunate staying away from CWD for his long. South Dakota, Minnesota and Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada all have confirmed cases of CWD.
“Basically for the longest time, we were kind of an island,” Grove said. “At this point in time, we’ve kind of joined the club.
“There’s always the concern that it might move down from Saskatchewan into the northwestern corner of North
The disease has been found to be carried easily through water ways, which can raise concerns.
“The disease tends to move along water ways, because that’s what the deer are using as corridors,” Grove said. “We can theorize that if the disease is going to spread, it’s going to spread along those corridors that the animal uses to travel.
“That is a concern for us.”
Though the NDGF will be targeting deer unit 3F2, surveillance teams will also be out in the middle part of the state between US 281 and state route 83.
“We are in the central third of the state,” Grove said. “We rotate every year and last year we were in the northeastern side of the state.”
Being that the NDGF only has the two occurrences; the next two years should play an important roll.
“It actually takes a couple years to figure out what the density of the disease is” Grove said. “Hopefully, after this year we will have a better idea of how widespread it might actually be in the unit that we have detected it.”
The toll that CWD can cause in a deer population over time is unknown, but research from Colorado might show a long term effect.
“There is some research that came out of Colorado on areas that have had CWD for long periods of time,” Grove said. “They have seen upwards of 40 percent decline in deer population in those areas. It’s something that we might not see in one or two years from now.
“We manage for the long term and we want to make sure there are plenty of hunting opportunities for people in the long term.”
As deer season approaches, hunters will become the biggest help for the NDGF to find cases of CWD.
“Hunters are our primary source for samples at this time,” Grove said. “We have year round targeted surveillance for sick and ill animals. In terms of getting a large number of animals, we get those from our hunters.”