With most chronic wasting disease testing completed, the Game and Fish Department has reported 24 deer from the 2022 hunting season tested positive.
Eight deer were from hunting unit 3F2; eight from unit 3A1; two from unit 4B; and one from units 3B1 and 3E2. Single positive deer were also found in four new units – 3A3, 3E1, 3F1 and 4F – where the disease had not been previously detected.
Wildlife division chief Casey Anderson said the department is encouraged the number of cases was on par with results from the 2021 hunting season when 26 cases were found.
“While we certainly wish the number was zero, this stable trend is a good thing and supports our current management approach,” he said.
CWD is a fatal disease of deer, moose and elk that remain on the landscape and can cause long-term population impacts as infection rates climb. The 2022 results come while the state legislature considers a bill that would strip the Game and Fish Department’s ability to restrict baiting as a means to combat CWD.
“Baiting restrictions are one of only a few tools the department has to try to slow down how fast CWD spreads,” said Dr. Charlie Bahnson, wildlife veterinarian. “Artificially concentrating deer from August through November puts more animals in contact with each other and each other’s bodily fluids. That’s a lot of unnecessary risk that’s hard to justify in areas where CWD has been detected.”
CWD forces Game and Fish to make tough decisions that leave some folks unhappy, Anderson said.
“The department is charged with protecting the health of the deer herd for current and future use,” he said. “It’d be irresponsible of us to ignore the serious threat CWD poses, and we hope to have every tool available to do our job. Unfortunately, with CWD, we don’t get a redo.”
Confirmed cases included 22 hunter harvested mule deer; one harvested white-tailed deer; and one mule deer hit by a vehicle. The estimated infection rates among mule deer were 4.9% in unit 3F2 and 9.8% in unit 3A1. Only 4.4% of hunters submitted heads for testing in units where the department focused its surveillance efforts.
Game and Fish will use its 2022 surveillance data to guide its CWD management strategy moving forward. More information about CWD can be found by visiting the department’s website, gf.nd.gov.