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By Pam Reinig

Register Editor


A special collection authorized after a CWD-positive deer was found in Clayton County has ended. Not all results are in but so far no additional signs of the disease have been found.

“The first 52 samples have come back ‘not detected,’ or negative for CWD,” said Terry Haindfield, a wildlife biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “The next 48 samples are expected any day now with the remaining coming in a week or two.”

The DNR authorized a special collection from February 18 to March 5 after a deer killed five miles northeast of Elkader tested positive for CWD. The deer, killed during the December shotgun season, was the first CWD-positive animal in more than 7,000 deer tested in Clayton County. It was not, however, the first sick deer found in Northeast Iowa. There have been 17 positive cases in Allamakee County since 2013.

CWD is a progressive brain disease that causes infected animals to literally waste away. Found in white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, reindeer and moose, it’s caused by deformed proteins called “prions.” CWD is spread through direct contact with an infected animal or contact with soil that contains prions from animal saliva or urine. The disease is always fatal, and can be present in deer for several months before symptoms, including extreme thinness, are visible.

DNR officials outlined the need for a special collection at a February 13 meeting in Elkader. More than 300 hunters, landowners and other persons attended the meeting. In the days following, the DNR issued 123 permits for 456 hunters (more than one person could be listed on a permit). The number of samples taken was 158; 20 were fawns and thus were not tested.

The sampling number fell well below the 250 to 300 deer the DNR had hoped to collect. Haindfield attributes the lower number, in part, to the fact that much of the land in the surveillance zone is privately owned. 

Even if the remaining samples come back negative, Haindfield says the DNR will continue monitoring the situation and will collect more samples next fall to remain informed on the overall health of the local deer population. Haindfield urges Clayton County residents to do their part, as well. He offers five suggestions for stopping or slowing the spread of the disease. They include:

Allow the DNR to take samples from your harvested deer during all seasons to monitor for the disease. Only the animal’s lymph nodes are needed for testing. The rest of the animal can be stored at a locker until test results are returned. Although there is no evidence yet that CWD can be transferred to human, eating contaminated meat is not advised by the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control.

Report any animals that appear sick to the DNR. Symptoms of CWD include extreme weight loss, excessive salivation, holding the head in a lowered position, and drooping ears.

Refrain from feeding or baiting deer with food, salt blocks or mineral blocks. The practices encourages large concentrations of animals to gather in a small space, thus increasing the likelihood of animal-to-animal contact.

Properly dispose of deer remains after processing the meat. Hauling a carcass from an infected area and placing the remains in another outdoor site will infect a new area, if the animal is CWD-positive.

Consider fostering a younger deer population in your area. Remove older does (4½ years or older) and bucks (older than 6 years) so if they are CWD-positive, they will not continue to infect family groups.

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