Twelve samples tested positive during the 2016 chronic wasting disease monitoring effort in which 4,879 tissue samples were collected from wild deer. Test results are pending on deer from a handful of counties, and on 86 deer tissue samples from the Clayton County special deer collection effort that ended March 5.
The disease first appeared in Iowa’s wild deer herd in 2013 and each year since, the DNR has placed extra emphasis to find the extent to which disease is in the area, and to help slow the spread by removing additional adult deer from the local population.
“We are extremely grateful for the cooperation of hunters and landowners in the region who gave us samples and who allow hunters access to their property during the collection effort,” said Terry Haindfield, wildlife biologist for a six county region in northeast Iowa.
Because of his location, Haindfield has been in the middle of the disease since its arrival.
“We still have some confusion among hunters knowing the difference between chronic wasting disease and epizoic hemorrhagic disease. We need to continue to explain what the diseases are so our hunters are more knowledgeable if either disease does come in to their area,” Haindfield said.
Chronic wasting disease is caused by a misshapen protein, takes 18-36 months to show clinical signs and is always fatal. Epizoic hemorrhagic disease is spread by a biting midge, is often worse during drought years and can occur throughout Iowa.
From his experience, he said there is no easy cookie cutter approach when it comes to collecting added samples for testing.
“Each CWD-positive instance is unique – when was the sample collected, what was the sex of the animal, where was it taken, what is the terrain like. All of that is taken in to account when formulating a plan to address it,” he said.
The DNR goal is to collect around 5,000 deer samples from across the state each year, with an emphasis in and near areas where disease has been confirmed. For the 14 counties near areas where CWD has been confirmed, quotas range from 50 samples to 500. The remaining counties have a quota of 15 samples each.
These CWD focus areas include the northeast quarter of Pottawattamie County; Keokuk County; an area surrounding the four corners where Winnebago, Worth, Hancock and Cerro Gordo counties adjoin; Wayne, Appanoose, Davis, Wapello and potions of Monroe, Jefferson and Van Buren counties; and Winneshiek, Howard, Buchannan, Delaware, Scott, Clinton, Jackson, Dubuque, Clayton and Allamakee counties.
The disease has been found in southeastern Nebraska near the Missouri River which will begin a new focus area with a quota of 750 samples along Iowa’s western border from Fremont to Woodbury County.
Haindfield said there are some things hunters can do to help with the surveillance.
He said they should remove any mineral blocks and feeders that unnaturally concentrates deer and increases the chance of spreading any disease. They can also provide tissue samples to the DNR for testing and report any sick or emaciated deer to the DNR.