With Iowa being recognized as one, if not the top whitetail producing state for avid deer hunters, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is working hard to keep hunters updated on the status of chronic wasting disease (CWD) and hemorrhagic diseases that are causing deer to drop across the state. Representatives from the DNR traveled to Corydon on Sept 10 to host a meeting at Walden Park to provide current affected deer numbers along with providing information on how to report suspect deer and have samples taken if CWD is suspected.
Wildlife Biologist Terry Haindfield began the meeting describing what CWD actually is. CWD is described as a slowly progressive brain disease in deer-like species (cervids), which includes white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, reindeer and moose.
A virus does not cause the disease, nor does fungus or bacteria therefore it is unable to be treated. The disease is spread directly from animal-to-animal and environmentally. At this time the disease is only known in cervids as there is no evidence of transmission to other wild mammals or humans.
With 46 CWD positive deer in the State of Iowa since 2013, five have been confirmed in Wayne County within the Corydon Deer Management Zone. One testing positive southwest of Seymour and the other four on the southern outskirts of Corydon.
“We know the number is more than four, this is only what’s being reported,” said Haindfield.
There are no early signs for detection of CWD. Of the 46 confirmed cases, 44 of these positive deer looked like healthy, normal animals.
The differences between CWD positive deer and those with hemorrhagic disease (HD, EHD and Bluetongue) are greatly noticed. Unlike CWD, the hemorrhagic diseases are viral.
Young bucks and old can be affected and death usually occurs within days. With CWD older bucks have a higher infection number and the disease incubates for one to two years before symptoms may be noticeable.
While CWD is viable in the environment and is always fatal to affected deer, some may survive hemorrhagic disease while the virus itself cannot survive the environment.
In 2018 and 2019 there have been only four deer reported with hemorrhagic diseases each year. The numbers however have greatly grown around us.
In 2019, 11 have been reported in Appanoose County, 22 in Decatur, 35 in Lucas, 75 in Clarke and 23 in Monroe. A whopping 460 reports have come in from Warren County this year compared to only 5 from the previous year.
In total there have been 839 suspect hemorrhagic disease mortalities as of Sept. 6 for the current year. Haindfield reminded those in attendance, “These are simply the numbers reported. The numbers could be higher with more testing.”
“What can we do to stop or slow the spreading process?” said Haindfield. “I think this may be the biggest thing in my mind, but mineral and feed sites on the ground where you are feeding a food pile just may be the biggest problem we have once CWD is established. All of the noses go to the same spot and with transmission through saliva where they ingest that is spreading the disease faster.”
“I will say we’ve had tremendous success with hunters with sampling,” said Haindfield. “They have gone out of their way to help us out with this.”
Those harvesting deer during the upcoming hunting seasons in Iowa are able to have testing performed with samples taken from the lymph nodes and sent to Iowa State University or Colorado State. Those wishing to report CWD are asked to call (641) 203-5411.
If purchasing one of the 350 antlerless-only licenses specific to the Corydon Zone, mandatory sampling is required.
Those harvesting are able to have the remains disposed of through the DNR where they will be taken to a landfill and buried. Landowners are able to bury their own remains on their own property.
It was noted if buried at the landfill the remains are wrapped. Burning of the remains was not recommended, as a regular brush fire will not get hot enough to rid the remains of the prions.
With these diseases being present in Wayne County, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) strongly recommends if you harvest a deer in an area known to have CWD positive animals to have testing performed before consuming any meat. With the positive deer found near the county lines they suggest those harvesting in Appanoose County also have tests performed before consumption.
The first sampling test performed is free. Once quotas are reached across the state the sampling will cost $38 at the hunters/reporters expense.