After rare CWD-positive whitetail in North Dakota, a whole lot of negatives, too
After a white-tailed deer found dead just south of Williston in late February tested positive for chronic wasting disease, samples of deer taken by targeted removal there two weeks ago have all tested negative for CWD, according to Dr. Charlie Bahnson, wildlife veterinarian for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.
Following the positive detection, Game and Fish removed an additional 52 deer for testing.
“It was really important to figure out how big of a problem we had on our hands,” Bahnson said. “These test results are the best we could have hoped for, given the circumstance. We now know that CWD is there, but infection rates appear to be low.”
CWD is a fatal disease of deer, moose and elk that can cause long-term population declines if left unchecked. Since 2009, 14 other deer have tested positive for CWD in North Dakota – 13 from Grant and Sioux counties in hunting unit 3F2 in the southwest, and the other taken last fall from the northwest in Divide County.
The deer found near Williston is the first documented case of a mortality due to CWD in North Dakota.
“This is unfortunate news because it means CWD is much farther south than the positive deer harvested this past fall in the northwest corner of deer unit 3A1 in Divide County,” Bahnson said. “All 14 previous detections were perfectly healthy-looking deer that were hunter-harvested before they got sick. This deer was severely emaciated and had an empty digestive tract, which is unusual even in starvation cases that can occur in harder winters like this one. This deer stopped trying to forage some time ago.”
Bahnson said this deer was probably not the first to die of CWD in North Dakota, especially since the disease has been documented in 3F2 for a decade.
“But this animal happened to die in an area where it was highly visible, and the carcass could be recovered in time for testing,” he said. “In other areas of the country where CWD has reached a tipping point, finding sick or dead CWD-infected deer has become common. We need to do everything in our power to ensure that doesn’t happen in North Dakota.”
More information about CWD and regulations regarding CWD are available on the Game and Fish website at gf.nd.gov.