State officials will continue testing deer this hunting season as they look for any signs of Chronic Wasting Disease or C-W-D in the animals. D.N.R. state deer biologist, Tom Litchfield, says they began looking for the disease that’s fatal to the animals in 2000.
Litchfield says they take samples in every county, but they do a concentrated effort in seven northeastern counties, beginning in Allamakee County and heading south into Scott County. The statewide goal is 4,500 samples annually. Last year they took 4,375 samples and they all came back negative for C-W-D.
The reason they focus in eastern Iowa is the disease has been found in both Wisconsin and Illinois. Litchfield says they plan to seek more samples in Howard, Mitchell and Winneshiek counties after a confirmed case of C-W-D in Pine Island, Minnesota. He says Minnesota has sampled over 800 deer since then, and they haven’t found another case of C-W-D in the area, which he says is hopefully a sign they have caught it early and it won’t be coming into Iowa.
A captive deer in Linn County, Missouri tested positive, so Litchfield says they will also look at more samples from Appanoose and Wayne counties in southern Iowa. “Missouri did extra testing last year, we did on our side of the border, we’re both doing it again this year,” Litchfield says, “so far everything has been clean out in the wild and hopefully it’ll stay that way.”
With C-W-D popping up all around Iowa, Litchfield says there’s no certainty it will or will not enter our state. He says whether C-W-D ever reaches Iowa or if it ever will “depends on whether you are a pessimist or optimist.” Litchfield says there’s a chance they could come up with a positive test this year, and it could be another 50 years before that happens.
A majority of the tissue samples tested for C-W-D come from deer shot by hunters that were voluntarily sent in. Many of the samples will start coming in as the shotgun deer season gets underway this weekend. Litchfield says C-W-D is fatal to deer, elk and moose, but there is no evidence to show to that humans can contract the disease.