Permits issued for CWD hunt

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462 tags issued for the 

shooting of 200 deer near Harpers 

Ferry for CWD testing purposes

By Ted Pennekamp


In April 2014, the Iowa 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 was the first known case of CWD in a wild deer in the state. In January 2015, three more CWD positives were reported for deer harvested in 2014 from Allamakee County. The DNR is implementing a special CWD surveillance plan in Allamakee County while continuing to implement its existing CWD testing protocols statewide.  

On the afternoon of Feb. 17, a public meeting about CWD in Harpers Ferry drew about 100 people according to DNR officials. The attendance at a meeting in Waukon the evening of Feb. 17 was estimated at about 90. As a result of these public meetings, the DNR and local constituents agreed to begin an intensive sample collection effort in the surveillance area, defined as the sections adjacent to, and including, the sections where the four positive animals were found near Harper’s Ferry. The goal of this intensive surveillance is to provide more information on the extent and prevalence of CWD in this area. This information will then be used to guide decisions for future surveillance efforts and hunting seasons. 

The shooting of additional deer for CWD research purposes began on Saturday, Feb. 21 and will go through March 15 or when an additional 200 samples are obtained. The samples will bring the total number collected in the intensive surveillance area to 300, which will provide a better understanding of the extent and prevalence of CWD in this area. Only adult deer will be sampled. Cooperators have been issued permits through local DNR wildlife staff to shoot deer in the intensive surveillance area only.

According to DNR Wildlife Biologist Terry Haindfield, 63 permits have been issued so far (multiple participants can be listed on a single permit). “Currently, there are 259 participants and 462 tags issued for the 31 sections to hopefully collect 50 public land samples and 150 private land samples (total of 200 samples),” said Haindfield.

By 7:30 Sunday evening, 29 deer were reported (and collected) of which 27 were adults and two were fawns. “We are extremely pleased with the participation and the number of deer sampled just after the first weekend, especially for how brutal cold and windy Sunday was,” Haindfield said.

Iowa has tested more than 57,000 wild deer and more than 3,500 captive deer and elk as part of CWD surveillance efforts since 2002. Samples are collected from all 99 counties in Iowa. However, the majority have been 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 DNR is keeping a close eye on the deer population as the 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, wildlife bureau chief. “It is needed to give us a good picture of what is going on within the deer population.”

The DNR is encouraging the public to report all roadkill deer and sick or severely emaciated deer found in the targeted area to the Iowa DNR at any of the following numbers:

•Unit Headquarters (563) 546-7962,

•Biologist Terry Haindfield (563) 380-3422,

•Conservation Officer Bill Collins (563) 380-0801,

•Conservation Officer Jerry Farmer (563) 880-0422,

•Conservation Officer Burt Walters (563) 880-0108.

The DNR is especially interested in testing deer harvested from islands in the Mississippi River or from land adjoining the river near Harpers Ferry. Hunters are asked to refrain from shooting the deer in the head because it makes testing more difficult.

Hunters can help reduce the risk of spreading CWD by not leaving bones on the landscape after processing their deer. A better option is to bury them or take them to a clay‐lined landfill.

Everyone should also refrain from feeding and baiting deer in the targeted area. The risk of spreading any disease is greater when animals are concentrated in a very small area.

The targeted area is roughly an area outlined by Highway 76, Waterville Road, Elon Road to Lafayette Ridge Drive, and then south along the Mississippi River boundary back to Highway 76 near Effigy Mounds National Monument.

CWD is a neurological disease affecting primarily deer and elk. An abnormal protein, called a prion, attacks the brains of infected animals causing them to lose weight, display abnormal behavior and lose bodily functions. Signs of CWD in deer include excessive salivation, thirst and urination, loss of appetite, weight loss, listlessness and drooping ears and head. It is always fatal to the infected animal. Anyone seeing a deer exhibiting these symptoms should immediately contact the 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 infectious in the environment for years. The only reliable test for CWD requires testing of lymph nodes or brain material.

Testing for the CWD protein is not a food safety test. It has not been proven that humans can contract CWD by eating venison. However, the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend hunters do not eat the brain, eyeballs, or spinal cord of infected deer, and that hunters wear protective gloves while field dressing game.

Under Iowa law, hunters cannot transport into the state the whole carcass of any cervid (i.e., deer, elk, moose or caribou) taken from a CWD-infected area. 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.

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