The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is continuing its program to test deer for chronic wasting disease (C-W-D) during this hunting season. The disease is always fatal to deer, but has never been found in Iowa. D.N.R. deer biologist, Tom Litchfield, says they will collect samples from hunters and some lockers that process the deer.
He says they collect samples statewide, but two-thirds of the samples are taken in northeastern Iowa from counties adjacent to the Mississippi River as Wisconsin and Illinois have found C-W-D in their wild deer populations. Litchfield says hunters voluntarily donate samples to the program and they have tested 29-thousand samples since the program started in 2002.
Hunters are encouraged to contact the D.N.R. if they want to submit a sample from their deer. Litchfield says the Mississippi River has provided one natural barrier that has helped keep C-W-D from moving into Iowa from other states. Litchfield says work is underway to try and determine the possibility of the disease being carried by the out-of-state deer into Iowa.
He says Iowa State University is conducting a genetic study of deer in all three states to determine how close the genetics match up and how likely it is that deer from the other two states would migrate into Iowa. Litchfield says it seems as though the disease will some day show up in the Iowa deer tests.
Litchfield says pessimistically it seems the disease eventually would get to Iowa, but he says every year that goes by with the state being diseased free is one more year for the nation to learn how to deal with the disease. He says there is no evidence that humans can contract C-W-D from eating venison. The D.N.R. however recommends that hunters 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.