CWD in Allamakee

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Two wild deer in Allamakee County test positive for CWD

By Ted Pennekamp


Two wild deer killed in Allamakee County during the recent hunting season have been confirmed positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD), marking the third year in a row the disease has been confirmed in a wild Iowa deer, all in Allamakee County.  

“This is disappointing but not altogether surprising,” said Dr. Dale Garner, chief of Wildlife for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “This region was a focal point for increased surveillance and thanks to hunters in the area we exceeded our goal of 400 samples. Our next step is to host another public meeting up there, listen to their concerns and discuss options available going forward.”

The surveillance zone covered a 140-square-mile area in eastern Allamakee and northeast Clayton County, including the area near Harper’s Ferry. The two recent CWD positive deer were killed within two miles of where the previous positive deer were taken. In addition to the two CWD deer from the 2015 hunting season, there were three CWD deer in the 2014 season, and one in the 2013 season.

Last year, local residents partnered with the Iowa DNR to collect 85 additional samples during a special hunt after the regular deer seasons. None of those deer collected tested positive for the disease.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is currently working to obtain as much information as possible about the infected deer to implement its CWD response plan.

“There will be some upcoming meetings in order to get input from hunters and other interested persons,” said Kevin Baskins, the DNR Public Information Officer. “The cooperation from hunters and the public has been phenomenal. It is the key to dealing with this situation.”

Baskins said that it is not yet known if another special hunt will be done in order to gain more samples. He noted that the idea has not been ruled out, however. Also, he said that it is very important for people to report all road-killed deer, especially in Allamakee and surrounding counties, so that those deer can be tested for CWD. “We need to collect as many samples as we can,” he said.

Baskins said that the good news is that the CWD deer have all come from a fairly small area. “We will increase our surveillance in the surrounding counties, however, to help determine how widespread it (CWD) is,” he said.

Baskins said the DNR is still awaiting some test results which may help in the forming of the response plan and possibly help to determine a sample goal.

CWD is a neurological disease affecting primarily deer and elk. It is caused by an abnormal protein, called a prion that attacks the brains of infected animals, causing them to lose weight, display abnormal behavior and lose bodily functions. Signs include excessive salivation, thirst and urination, loss of appetite, progressive weight loss, listlessness and drooping ears and head. The only reliable test for CWD requires testing of lymph nodes or brain material after the animal is dead.

There is currently no evidence that humans contract CWD by eating venison. However, the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that hunters do not eat the brain, eyeballs or spinal cord of deer and that hunters wear protective gloves while field dressing game and boning out meat for consumption.

CWD positive deer pose no health risk to cattle, said Baskins. 

Prior to the positive detection in Iowa, CWD had been previously detected in every bordering state.

Since 2002, nearly 60,000 wild deer from across the state have been tested.

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