Sunday, January 29th, 2023
Sunday, January 29th, 2023

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Vets to aid hunters with CWD testing

Associate Editor

Madison Wisconsin Gov. Scott McCallum last week said the U.S.
Department of Agriculture has increased the number of certified
labs in the nation that will test for chronic wasting disease.

At the same time, the feds said capacity will be increased,
opening the door for hunters to have their deer tested at an
accredited lab. Such testing would likely cost hunters $50 to $100
per sample, officials say.

“My goal always has been to provide an affordable test for every
hunter who wants one, and the USDA has agreed to provide new
laboratory capacity for up to 200,000 tests for Wisconsin deer
hunters,” McCallum said in a press release.

The voluntary tests offered to hunters will be in addition to
surveillance testing the DNR also will conduct.

McCallum said hunters who want their deer tested for the disease
will have three options:

They may obtain a free test as part of the surveillance program
(500 deer will be tested from each county, not including the
thousand officials hope to test in the CWD endemic area).

Hunters may enlist the services of a participating veterinarian,
who will remove the brain stem sample from the animal and submit it
to a testing facility.

Hunters may pull and submit brain stem samples themselves. DNR
officials will provide information on how to do this properly.

According to initial reports, the tests would be available
“on-demand” to hunters. Results would probably take three to six
months, about the time frame for DNR surveillance tests on brain
stem samples from each county that will be collected starting this
week during the Zone T season.

The Wisconsin Veterinary Medial Association began training
private veterinarians last week in how to take brain stem samples
for the “gold standard” CWD test.

Hunters will be expected to pay the veterinarian’s fee, as well
as the test costs at the lab. It is not yet known how many
veterinarians will participate. They will be allowed to set their
own fee schedule. The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer
Protection (DATCP) will maintain a list of vets trained and willing
to take samples. Wisconsin Outdoor News has been told that list
will be posted to DNR and DATCP web sites as soon as its
available.

Field test kit to be available at retail outlets

A CWD testing kit, not approved by the federal government, will
be available to hunters in Wisconsin this fall, according to its
marketer and one of its sales outlets.

The kit is marketed by William “Butch” Johnson, a Hayward, Wis.,
businessman, in cooperation with Wildlife Support Services. Gander
Mountain has announced it will be selling the kit, at a cost of
$52.95.

Gander officials say the kits will arrive in stores in
mid-October. The cost of the item includes specimen collection
items and instructions, UPS delivery to the testing lab, lab
testing of the specimen, and a reply postcard to the hunter with
the results of the test, Gander said in a press release. Test
results will be mailed out within one to five weeks of shipment of
the specimen.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has reported the kits will be
sold at stores and to some butchers who may charge customers to
have deer tested.

The federal Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)
under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, accredits
facilities for CWD testing. Ten such facilities all state or
university diagnostic labs have been approved. Five more likely
should be testing early next year, according to Ed Curlett, an
APHIS spokesperson.

APHIS-approved labs test a brain stem sample of deer using a
method called “immunohistochemistry,” considered the “gold
standard” of CWD testing. APHIS says the capacity of the currently
approved labs is “more than sufficient to handle the increased
surveillance testing planned this fall to determine the geographic
distribution and prevalence of CWD in the United States.”

APHIS officials warn that even the current “gold standard” CWD
test isn’t perfect. “Because of the limitations of currently
available USDA-approved tests for CWD, testing serves purely as a
surveillance tool,” APHIS officials say in the agency’s “position
paper” on CWD. They say a negative test is not necessarily a
reliable indicator of an animal free of the disease.

“Indeed, at this time there is no test that can be used on
individual animals to determine whether that animal is free from
CWD,” they write.

“In addition, the demand for test results to provide to hunters
implies food safety testing, and no test has been shown to be
sensitive enough to support use as a food safety test.”

State officials say the test should be viewed as a “CWD
surveillance tool,” not a food standard test.

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