The Iowa Department of Agriculture has released the tests results from a north-central Iowa deer herd where an animal had previously tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). Ag Department spokesman Dustin Vande Hoef says they took action soon after finding out about the infected animal two years ago at the Pine Ridge Lodge near Clear Lake in Cerro Gordo County.
“We quarantined the facility and then entered into negotiations with the owners, and then just this past August we depopulated the heard at that breeding facility and conducted tests on all the deer there…and 79.8 percent of all the deer tested positive for the disease,” Vande Hoef says. There were a total of 356 deer at the facility owned by, Tom and Rhonda Brakke.
The deer are all gone now and Vande Hoef says precautions must still be taken to prevent the spread of CWD. “The owners of the herd have entered into a fence-maintenance agreement with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship which requires them to maintain an eight-foot perimeter fence around the facility for five years to keep any wild white tail deer from entering the facility,” he explains.
CWD is a progressive, fatal, degenerative neurological disease caused by what are called prions in the brains of the animals. Vande Hoef says the five-year quarantine of the area is designed to prevent its spread. “The prions can stay in the soil want to keep the wild deer out of that facility,” Vande Hoef says. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says $917,000s from its indemnity fund will be available to the owners to pay for getting rid of the deer and cleaning up the area. The owners have been in a fight with the state over the cost of cleaning up the problem.
Vande Hoef says deer farms like this one are not uncommon in the state. “We operate a voluntary CWD testing program for farms that sell deer, elk and moose and there are 145 farms that participate in the program,” Vande Hoef says.
There have been three case where captive deer were found to have CWD. The first case was found in Davis County at a farm also owned by the Brakkes. A DNR spokesman says the deer on that shooting preserve came from the breeding facility in Cerro Gordo County. Around 100 deer at the David County facility were killed to stop the spread of the disease. And 3 of the 5 deer that were found with CWD in Pottawattamie County came from the Cerro Gordo County facility.
CWD was recently detected for the first time in a wild deer in Iowa. The animal which tested positive was shot by a hunter in northeast Iowa’s Allamakee County early December.