It's become a standard part of the general deer hunt: Utah hunters are once again being asked to bring their harvested deer to various stations across the state so biologists can test the animals for chronic wasting disease.
The DWR sets up monitoring checkpoints on all hunting units in the state — on a five-year rotation — to sample deer populations for chronic wasting disease. Hunters who go to the check stations will receive a free CWD test if they harvested a deer on one of the units being sampled this year. Hunters will need to leave about 6 inches of the animal's neck and windpipe attached below the jaw so that DWR employees can remove the lymph nodes for the sample.
DWR employees will also ask the hunter a few questions, including the location where the animal was harvested. The entire process will only take a few minutes.
Hunters who harvest an animal in a non-target sampling unit but still wish to have their deer or elk tested for chronic wasting disease, may do so by providing the head of the animal to the Utah Veterinary Diagnostic Lab in Logan or the Utah Veterinary Diagnostic Lab in Spanish Fork, and paying a $25 testing fee. Deer and elk must be older than one year of age to be eligible for testing.
"We take the presence of CWD in the state seriously and will continue to do extensive monitoring to stay on top of the disease and its prevalence in the state," said Annette Roug, state wildlife veterinarian. "We ask that hunters stop at our check stations if they have harvested a deer in order to help us with our monitoring of CWD in Utah."
To locate the CWD monitoring check stations and sampling units, click here.
Chronic wasting disease is a relatively rare transmissible disease that affects the nervous systems of deer, elk and moose. The disease was first discovered in Utah in 2002 in a buck deer taken during the rifle hunt near Vernal. As of Oct. 7, 2020, 118 mule deer and two elk have tested positive for CWD in Utah. However, it isn't widespread in the state and is only found in six hunting units in Utah — primarily in a few counties in central, northeastern and southeastern Utah.
Infected animals develop brain lesions, become emaciated, appear listless and have droopy ears, may salivate excessively and eventually die. The disease is caused by a protein particle that attaches to the brain and spine. It has been compared to Mad Cow Disease in cows.
Infected animals may shed prions in urine, feces and saliva. Transmission may occur directly through contact with an infected animal or indirectly through environmental contamination. (A dead carcass can spread it to the soil.) Prions are extremely resistant in the environment and can stay infectious for years.
While the Centers for Disease Control says the risk of transmission from animals to humans is considered extremely low, they recommend not consuming meat from animals infected with chronic wasting disease.