Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

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Iowa seeking ways to combat CWD

Dubuque, Iowa — As the number of chronic wasting disease cases increase in Iowa, a state official is encouraging the public’s help in the disease’s occurrence.

Dr. Rachel Ruden, Iowa state wildlife veterinarian, told webinar participants Nov. 29 that vigilance is key to reducing the spread of the infectious disease that is affecting the deer population in that state. She said delaying an onslaught of the fatal disease may keep Iowa from experiencing the effects as seen in Wisconsin. “(Iowa is) 10 years behind Wisconsin as far as the trajectory of the disease,” she said.

“Our environment is not contaminated right now.”

Ruden cited Wisconsin’s Iowa County, where the likelihood is that one in every two deer is infected with CWD. The disease, composed of infectious prions, kills deer over time, usually within two years of contracting it. Early on, the animal does not show signs of the disease, and throughout the illness can infect other members of the herd. In the end, the deer will appear distressed, the result of the disease taking its toll on its system.

Ruden’s comments were made following a presentation by Tyler Harms, Iowa DNR wildlife biometrician, who gave a summary of Iowa’s CWD totals. The program came on the eve of the state’s general gun deer-hunting season (Dec. 3-7).

Harms also noted several practices that help limit exposure to CWD, and encouraged hunters and citizens, in general, to be vigilant in helping reduce the disease’s spread.

“It’s very difficult to completely eradicate CWD once it’s established in an area,” Harms said. “We’re all in this together … to help slow the spread of the disease.”

CWD was first documented in Iowa in 2012, found in a captive herd. The first case in the wild was found in Allamakee County – which borders Minnesota in northeastern Iowa – in 2013. Since then, statewide there have been three cases in 2014, two in 2015, 12 in 2016, 10 in 2017, 18 in 2018, 44 in 2019, 21 in 2020, and 52 in 2021. Thus far in 2022, there have been four positive samples. Since 2013, there have been 167 confirmed samples in the state. By comparison, there have been 10,024 cases in Wisconsin, according to the state’s DNR. There have been 168 total cases in Minnesota, according to the state DNR.

Nearly all of Iowa’s cases have been found in counties bordering neighboring states. All told, CWD has been documented in 12 jurisdictions, with cases mainly in Allamakee, Clayton, and Winneshiek counties in the northeast corner, Dubuque County on the east side, Wayne County on the south, and Woodbury County on the west.

As a result, the Iowa DNR has established deer management zones in six areas. These zones will see increased sampling for CWD, typically 200 samples in 2022, as well as
more antlerless hunting opportunities, Harms said. Counties inside and
bordering the DMZ areas will offer more testing, too. All areas of the
state will see testing, with a minimum of 15 samples in counties where
CWD has not been found.

Even where sampling quotas have been met, hunters
may have their deer tested by paying $25. Iowa DNR officials will
receive the sample, transport it to the Iowa State University Diagnostic
Laboratory, and the participant can learn of its status via the Iowa
DNR’s website.

Sampling is a key component to helping not only learn more about CWD, but also
limiting its spread. It’s part of the state’s five-tier effort to combat
the disease. Other parts include refraining from using supplemental
feeding, properly disposing of deer carcasses, reporting sick deer, and
additional hunting. Harms said increased hunting in CWD-detected areas
is the best way to slow the spread of the disease. If left unchecked, he
said, in time CWD numbers will increase.

Ruden said following state guidelines is critical to keeping CWD from
overtaking the state’s deer herd. She said the hope is for technology to
eventually catch up with the disease, offering answers in areas from
vaccinations to genetics.

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