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Deer hunters in western Iowa take note – chronic wasting disease (CWD) has shown up on your doorstep. Five deer harvested in southeast Nebraska in 2016 have tested positive for CWD.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will increase surveillance sampling of deer from Woodbury to Fremont County beginning this fall.
The Iowa DNR has scheduled two meetings to discuss the status of CWD in Iowa and how deer hunters can help. Meetings are scheduled at 6:30 p.m., Sept. 25, in the Lewis and Clark State Park Visitor Center, three miles west of Onawa, and 6:30 p.m., Sept. 26, at the public library, 420 East Huron St., in Missouri Valley.
Terry Haindfield, wildlife biologist for the Iowa DNR who is leading the effort to combat CWD, will coordinate the meeting. He hosted a series of meetings in northeast Iowa last year that drew crowds of up to 300 and hopes to have similar turn out in western Iowa.
“We want people to come to these meetings, ask their questions, hear the concerns from other hunters,” Haindfield said. “Deer hunting is an important tradition and, for some, a large part of their identity. It is also important to us and we need to work together to combat this disease. Our goal is to provide quality deer hunting for future generations.”
The DNR will present information on CWD, inform the public about increased surveillance in western and southwestern counties, and request help from deer hunters for tissue samples during the upcoming fall and winter deer seasons.
After the initial CWD positive wild deer was found in Allamakee County in 2013, the DNR, with the help of cooperative hunters, increased its surveillance in proximity to where the positive deer was harvested to help determine the extent of the disease. To date, 18 deer have tested positive for CWD in northeast Iowa; 17 in Allamakee County and one in Clayton County, discovered last year.
There are several things hunters can do to stop or slow the spread of CWD, Haindfield said.
“The first and most important is to allow sampling of hunter harvested deer,” he said.
The Iowa DNR’s wildlife staff sets an annual goal of collecting 4,500 samples. Since testing began in 2002, more than 62,500 tissue samples have been collected and tested looking for the presence of CWD in Iowa’s wild deer herd. The effort has focused on portions of northeast and eastern Iowa near Wisconsin, Illinois, and south-central Iowa near Missouri, where CWD has been detected. Additional testing has been conducted in Pottawattamie, Cerro Gordo and Davis counties, following positive tests from captive facilities. All counties have at least 15 samples taken to check for CWD. The disease has been found in every state around Iowa.
CWD is a neurological disease belonging to the family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) or prion diseases. It attacks the brain of infected deer and elk causing the animals to lose weight, display abnormal behavior, lose body functions and die. It is always fatal to the infected animal.
The Iowa DNR has more information about CWD and other infectious disease online at www.iowadnr.gov/cwd.