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Two diseases affecting deer are being closely monitored heading into the fall of 2013.

The first disease, Epizootic Hemorrghagic Disease, or EHD, has been widely reported in eastern and southern Iowa.  Losses due to EHD occur annually, usually at low levels and in localized areas.  In dry years it can be worse as deer are more concentrated around water, and since the disease is spread by a biting midge, more deer can become infected.

It is important to know that deer being affected by EHD will be temporary. EHD will only remain active until rain disperses the deer by providing more watering areas or a heavy frost kills the midges.

EHD causes high fever in infected deer and also causes the cell walls in their heart, lungs and diaphragm to weaken and burst. The deer are attracted to water to combat the fever and dehydration due to the hemorrhaging. Most deer die in 1-4 days after being infected with EHD.

The number of deer reported this year is substantially below what was reported 2012 when nearly 3,000 deer were reported. The impact on hunting has been minimal overall, but localized areas could see reduced numbers and hunters in these areas may not want to harvest extra does if numbers are lower than desired.

The information will be used in conjunction with the 2013/14 harvest information, 2013 bowhunter observation survey, 2013 road kill survey, and the 2014 spring spotlight surveys to assess the extent and impact of the mortality caused by the HD outbreak.

The second disease, Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a neurological disease affecting deer and elk. It is caused by an abnormal protein - known as a prion - that essentially eats holes in the brains of infected animals. In the latter stages of the disease, animals appear disoriented, lethargic and emaciated. They often exhibit excessive thirst, salivation, urination and drooping head and ears. It is always fatal to the infected animal. Anyone seeing a deer exhibiting these symptoms should immediately contact the Iowa DNR.

It is important to know that CWD is spread by direct and indirect contact as the prions are shed in the bodily fluids of infected animals and can remain infective for years in the environment.

CWD was first discovered in northeastern Colorado in 1967. Since then, CWD has been detected in free-ranging populations in Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming and in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada. It has been detected in captive facilities in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming, and in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada.

In April 2014 the DNR was notified that a deer harvested south of Harpers Ferry in Yellow River State Forest during the 2013 regular gun season tested positive for CWD. This is the first known case of CWD in a wild deer in the State of Iowa. For the actions DNR is taking read more on the surveillance plan for Allamakee County.

The Iowa DNR was informed by Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory in July 2012 that a deer from a shooting preserve in Davis County tested positive for CWD. The National Veterinary Services Lab in Ames confirmed the positive test and Iowa is implementing its CWD containment plan. None of the other samples submitted tested positive. Since 2012 the DNR has been working with hunters and landowners in this area to collect samples from hunter havested deer. Testing will continue in other parts of the state as well.

Update: The quarantine placed on the property in Davis County, which resulted from the positive CWD tests described above, was recently violated.  Attached below are the Emergency Order DNR issued and the Emergency Consent Order DNR entered into in response to that violation.  The case is currently pending a hearing, which is scheduled for November of 2013.  DNR’s attorneys are working with the Attorney General’s Office and our staff to defend the DNR in this case and we look forward to a resolution on this matter that will support our efforts in Iowa to have a CWD-free deer population. 
Iowa has tested over 51,000 wild deer and over 4,000 captive deer and elk as part of the surveillance efforts since 2002 when CWD was found in Wisconsin. Samples are collected from all 99 counties in Iowa; however the majority are taken in the counties nearest to areas where CWD has been detected in other states. Samples are collected voluntarily from hunter-harvested deer at check stations and meat lockers. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is keeping a close eye on the deer population as a disease spreads across the Midwest.

"What we are doing is an important part of the national CWD surveillance and monitoring effort," said Dr Dale Garner, bureau chief for the wildlife bureau. "It is needed to give us a good picture of what is going on within the deer population."

Hunter participation was completely voluntary and the DNR thanks all hunters that assisted with the CWD surveillance by providing deer heads for testing.

Note: It should be pointed out that this testing for the CWD agent is not a food safety test. At this writing, it is not believed that humans can contract CWD by eating venison; however, the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommends that hunters do not eat the brain, eyeballs, or spinal cord of deer, and that hunters wear protective gloves while field dressing game.

Also, hunters cannot transport into Iowa the whole carcass of any cervid (i.e., deer, elk, moose or caribou) taken from a CWD endemic area within any state or province. Only the boned-out meat, the cape, and antlers attached to a clean skull plate from which all brain tissue has been removed are legal to transport into Iowa.

For the latest updates/maps available on EHD and CWD: