Deer disease accelerates faster than N.D. officials expected
BISMARCK, N.D. — The growth of chronic wasting disease in North Dakota deer continues to accelerate and at a pace state wildlife officials didn’t expect would happen for years to come.
The state Game and Fish Department says 18 deer from last fall’s hunt tested positive for the fatal disease, up from 12 the previous year. The total number of cases since CWD was initially discovered in North Dakota in 2009 is 44 and 30 of those cases have occurred in the last two years.
“As we approach that exponential phase, that’s absolutely a cause for concern,” Game and Fish Wildlife veterinarian Charlie Bahnson said. “Unfortunately, the pattern that’s been observed in other parts of the country, that rate of acceleration starts to increase.”
The disease, which strikes an animal’s nervous system, has been an issue in other parts of North America for years and according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center it’s been detected in deer, elk or moose in 24 states and two Canadian provinces.
After the first case was found in a deer in south central North Dakota in 2009, 33 additional cases have been documented in that hunting unit, 3F2, including 21 in the last two years, the Bismarck Tribune reported.
“I think in a perfect world, we maybe thought we would be seeing this kind of increase many years down the road,” Bahnson said. He noted the large number of cases in 3F2 and said “it’s not unexpected, but we had hoped that it would be years and years before we reached that increase.”
Demand for deer hunting licenses in North Dakota remains strong with more than 81,000 people applying for a lottery last year when 69,050 licenses were available.