CWD regulations in Alberta

Due to the regular amending of regulations in Alberta, it is recommended that before hunting you check these CWD regulations, as well as those of any other states or provinces in which you will be hunting or traveling through while transporting cervid carcasses. The contact information for Alberta can be seen below:

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Most Recent CWD News

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  • We are making good progress on testing the heads submitted during the 2015/16 hunting seasons. But we still have about 900 yet to do. To date we have test results from 3921 heads and detected CWD in 74 deer (68 mule deer, 6 white-tailed deer;

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  • Hunters continue to play important role in disease surveillance

    Twelve new cases of chronic wasting disease have been identified in wild deer as a result of Alberta’s fall surveillance program. Hunters have submitted more than 4,800 wild deer heads for testing since September 1, 2009.

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  • The chronic wasting disease 2008 fall hunter surveillance program is winding down. As of January 7, 2009, Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development lab has completed tests on just over 3,000 heads. Individual hunters are notified of negative results when they are available through the Alberta

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  • EDMONTON - Twenty-four more cases of chronic wasting disease have been found in Alberta's wild deer, the Sustainable Resource Development of Alberta announced Tuesday.

    The results, from a 2007-2008 testing program, bring the province's count of the disease up to 53 cases.

    CWD affects the central

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  • Further efforts planned to maintain pressure against the disease.

    Edmonton... Twenty-four new cases of chronic wasting disease have been detected in wild deer along the Saskatchewan border, bringing the total number of cases in Alberta to 53.

    Alberta government staff recently held public meetings in

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Category Archives: Alberta

Winter Sampling of Deer in Areas North of Edmonton

Edmonton… To improve monitoring for Chronic Wasting Disease, staff of Alberta Sustainable Resource Development are collecting a sample of approximately 300 wild deer. This will occur between mid-February and late March in two sampling areas: one centred around Gibbons and Bon Accord and another near Fort Assiniboine, north and west of Edmonton.

This sampling program will be conducted with the cooperation of local landowners. Staff will collect the deer by shooting, which will be done in a safe manner that minimizes disturbance of landholders in their day-to-day activities, and avoids disturbing livestock and non-target wildlife.

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) was recently confirmed in a game-farmed elk and a farmed white-tailed deer on two different farms north of Edmonton. These are the only known occurrences of CWD in Alberta. The department has identified a need to increase the level of surveillance in the general vicinity of the affected farms as a way to assess whether the disease occurs in the wild.

Alberta has a coordinated Chronic Wasting Disease surveillance plan. As part of ongoing surveillance in Alberta, more than 3000 wild and over 6300 farmed deer and elk have been examined since 1996, with only one farmed elk and one farmed white-tailed deer being confirmed with CWD. The majority of samples from wild elk and deer were obtained from animals harvested during the normal fall hunting seasons, as well as in 2001 from a special spring collection along the border with Saskatchewan. There has been a moratorium on the importation of farmed cervids into Alberta, including from Saskatchewan, since 1988.

Chronic Wasting Disease is a fatal, nervous system disease of deer and elk that damages the brain. There is no evidence of natural transmission of this disease to traditional livestock or humans. It is similar to, but different from, scrapie in sheep and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle, also known as mad cow disease.

Should Elk Farming Be Put to Pasture?

After a troubled decade, it’s time Ottawa and the provinces undertook a serious review of the game farming industry.

More than 600 farmers in Alberta and more than 500 in Saskatchewan have put up tall wire fences and run domesticated elk and white-tailed deer in an effort to diversify their farms.

But the industry’s economics, dubious from the outset, have proven highly volatile. The value of breeding stock has plummeted from the early days. Elk farmers are still shut out of traditional elk-velvet aphrodisiac markets in the Far East because of lingering worries about disease. And so far, no big market for elk meat is materializing.

Raising elk in captivity has introduced new disease — chronic-wasting disease — to Alberta and Saskatchewan. Conservationists warned of this danger in the 1980s, and there are signs it may have been passed on to wild animals, with a potential major threat to wildlife.

Last week, there was another troubling development.

Four Saskatchewan farms, the main source of the CWD outbreak, are so contaminated that some agriculture uses of some of the land are prohibited by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. That’s put a handful of farmers in a terrible bind, looking for more compensation or some way to start a new business on partly quarantined land.

It costs a lot of tax dollars to support this marginal industry. In the early 1990s, taxpayers spent $25 million in compensation fees alone to farmers for animals slaughtered to control a tuberculosis outbreak that destroyed about half the fledgling Alberta herd.

So far, the fight against CWD in elk has cost $33 million to compensate farmers, mainly in Saskatchewan. (CWD is in the same disease family as “mad cow disease,” though there’s no evidence so far that it can be transmitted to humans.)

The industry has been based on a lot of hope and “limited science,” as government officials call it. But that simply opens the door to potential environmental problems. Since the CWD organism is very difficult to eradicate, it’s not known what it would take to clean infected land on Saskatchewan farms. Do we really want to see land restrictions as a long-term solution?

The four Saskatchewan farmers are barred from raising cattle on parts of their land.

While there is yet no evidence that CWD spreads to cattle, the CFIA is absolutely right to use the utmost caution. Transfer of the disease to cattle would be a major disaster for the cattle industry.

CFIA also told the four farmers they could grow hay as long as they do not feed it to deer or elk. They can grow grain, but not sell it to the local elevator. They must keep their high fences up to prevent wild deer and elk from wandering onto the contaminated land.

It all seems very complicated, and a bit like farming with one hand tied behind your back. It hardly gives confidence in the ability to control this disease.

Here in Alberta, CWD has been found on only one elk farm (compared to 40 in Saskatchewan). But Alberta was the first place in Canada to see the disease turn up on a white-tailed deer farm. The entire herd has not been tested, so it is unclear how widespread the disease is.

George Luterbacher, veterinarian with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in Winnipeg, is optimistic the disease can be controlled. With only a handful of CWD outbreaks last year compared to last, he says, disease control measures are working, though he adds there is a two to three-year incubation period.

Alberta’s chief veterinarian, Gerald Ollis, says there is little risk of the disease being passed on to cattle, although he admits there are many unknowns when it comes to CWD.

Last fall, elk farmers pinned their hopes for revival on hunt farms to create a market for their animals. Due to disease concerns, Alberta farmers are banned from selling into U.S. and Saskatchewan hunt farms. Wisely, the Alberta government refused to approve game farms, which are out of step with Alberta attitudes to wildlife and hunting.

With little market for meat, the velvet market still elusive, and no hunt farms, it’s time to ask whether this is an industry with a viable economic future.

Global trends in agriculture put consumer and food safety at the heart of public policy. Canada’s future depends on its reputation for high-quality, disease-free product. Game farming so far appears to run against that.

Some jurisdictions refused to get into game farming. The Yukon rejected the industry after doing an economic analysis. Wyoming turned it down because of the threat to the wildlife, to hunting, and to game-viewing activities. In 2000, Montana banned game ranching.

Commercializing wildlife has many problems. Trying to devise environmental and farm-safety practices on the basis of limited science about disease is unsound. It’s unlikely this industry is worth the very real risks. At the very least, a public review is in order.

Compensation Cuts Anger Deer, Elk Farmers

NISKU, Alta.- Some deer producers are no longer submitting heads of dead animals for inspection for chronic wasting disease since the Canadian Food Inspection Agency refined its compensation program, says a farmer.

“A lot of people are no longer willing to send in heads because of it,” said Jim Mercier of Gibbons, Alta. He is a white-tailed deer producer whose farm has been under quarantine since October because he bought an animal from a farm where a deer has tested positive for chronic wasting disease, or CWD.

Canadian deer and elk producers are required to submit the heads of all animals that die on the farm or are killed in a slaughter facility to provincial laboratories for testing for CWD.

Since the disease was first discovered in the late 1990s, more than $33 million has been paid to producers for the destruction of 8,300 elk and deer on 42 farms. Of those, 231 animals have tested positive. The only test for the disease requires a sample of brain material from the heads of the dead animals.

But Mercier said a recent letter to producers from the agency outlines cuts to the compensation program and is a slap in the face to an industry already in financial difficulty.

“Because of that letter all the game farmers are talking about not submitting heads,” said Mercier, who said he knows producers who have chosen not to submit the heads of dead animals because they won’t be fairly compensated for their animals.

In a Nov. 28 letter to Serge Buy, executive director of the Canadian Cervid Council, Carolyn Inch of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said the compensation program would be refined, effective immediately.

“The rationale for these modifications is in order to ensure that the Canadian taxpayers continue to receive good value for monies distributed from the Consolidated Revenue Fund,” Inch wrote.

“The dollar value paid for compensation of farmed cervids ordered destroyed is now exceeding 10 percent of the total value of the farmed national cervid herd prior to the impact of CWD.”

Compensation for animals ordered destroyed will now be based on a CFIA-staff developed table of current market values using national cervid markets. As well, owners of quarantined herds will be required to supply bills of sale and receipts for all animals moving in and out of the herd over the past two years.

George Luterbach, CFIA chief veterinarian, said the program was never intended to automatically pay the maximum $4,000 compensation amount to producers, but is based on fair market value.

Since the outbreak of the disease, the value of the animals has dropped dramatically and the compensation payments will reflect the lower prices.

“They aren’t automatically given the cap based on a price before the outbreak,” said Luterbach. “What we’re doing is clarifying the market value.”

Since the outbreak of the disease more than three years ago, the price of animals has dropped and sales have almost stopped. Some animals are selling for as low as $500.

Ed Nazaruk, a white-tailed deer farmer from Athabasca, Alta., said some producers have been offered $700 for their animals and are no longer willing to submit heads for testing.

“When you see a sick deer in the pen, what do you do?” he said.

Both Mercier and Nazaruk are part of a class action suit against Agriculture Canada for allowing the importation of diseased animals.

Elk Illness Sparks Probe Calls: Scientists want game-farm investigation as lethal chronic-wasting disease spreads

The spread of lethal chronic-wasting disease to a third species of wildlife in Canada has scientists calling for a wide-ranging inquiry into elk- and deer-farming industry.

The highly contagious so-called mad-elk disease was found last week in a white-tailed deer on an Alberta game farm. Over the past two years, it has been confirmed in 230 elk on 40 farms in Saskatchewan, and in four wild mule deer in Saskatchewan, said George Luterbach of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Scientists fear that the fatal brain disease is poised to spread into more domesticated herds and wild populations of elk and deer, as it has in parts of the United States, where a state of emergency has been declared.

Several criminal investigations in North America into the trading of game-farm elk and deer have heightened concern among scientists that illegal trading of the animals has taken place, possibly on a large scale over a long time.

When records are missing, it is difficult for enforcement officers to trace the origin of an infected animal and animals with which it has had contact.

Valerius Geist, a biologist and expert on chronic-wasting disease, said the outbreak in Western Canada shows that a judicial inquiry is needed to examine the movements of domesticated elk and deer and their health records.

Chronic-wasting disease is in the same family of lethal brain ailments as bovine spongiform encephalopathy — the so-called mad-cow disease. It is not clear whether an infected elk or deer can pass the disease to humans or cattle. Medical experts said the possibility is remote.

But scientists are alarmed because the disease is spreading, even as the federal government is in the midst of an all-out campaign to eradicate it.

The disease was in an advanced state when it was found in the brain of a dead four-year-old deer on a game farm in Alberta last week, said Dr. Luterbach, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s chief veterinarian of animal health and production in Western Canada.

The earlier instances of the disease, on the farms in Saskatchewan, led the government to order every animal on each farm killed — 8,500 elk, Dr. Luterbach said. Compensation to farmers has cost the government $33-million.

One case of the disease was found in a farmed elk in Alberta in April.

The most recent figures show there were 155,000 farmed elk and deer in Canada in November, 2001, said Serge Buy, executive director of the Canadian Cervid Council.

Because the illness has spread to a third species, some elk and deer farmers are prohibited from selling and moving their animals for three weeks while officials investigate the latest case.

The prohibition is further cause for concern, said Darrel Rowledge, a director of Alliance for Public Wildlife in Calgary. Farmers in drought-stricken Alberta have been struggling to feed their animals. Mr. Rowledge and other conservationists worry that desperate farmers will be tempted to let the animals loose, although that is illegal.

If any domesticated animal is infected with chronic-wasting disease, freeing it would increase the chance that the disease could spread to wild animals.

Elk and deer are notorious for jumping fences. Officials tracking pen mates of the infected white-tailed deer have discovered some missing.

Larry Hrycun, an elk farmer near Thorhild, Alta., said he has difficulty finding feed for his animals. He said some elk and deer farmers are in such trouble they are considering suing the federal government for allowing diseased animals into the country from the United States. “What are they going to say? ‘Whoops?’ “

He said the industry faces so many problems that if the government were to shut it down tomorrow, he would not argue against it.

Recent criminal investigations into the trading of game-farm elk and deer have highlighted the potential for problems in tracking infected animals.

Alberta CWD Symposium Announced

Chronic Wasting Disease – Alberta Implications January 11, 2003 – January 11, 2003 Nisku, Alberta Canada

A conference for hunters, Conservation Officers, Wildlife Biologists, Captive Cervid Producers, Veterinarians, and others who are interested.

Conference Synopsis: The objective of this one-day conference is to bring sound scientific information about chronic wasting disease to concerned wildlife professional, the citizens of Alberta, and nearby jurisdictions

The conference is sponsored by Alberta Conservation Association (ACA), the Alberta Cooperative Conservation Research Unit (ACCRU), and with active participation by Alberta Sustainable Resources Development disease specialists.

Speakers will include the world’s most respected and current CWD professionals on this disease who develop and implement the provincial CWD programs.

The conference agenda will include up to date information about what we know, what we need to know, and how we manage this disease in Canada and in Alberta. Audience members will have the opportunity to learn the basics about CWD: its origins, distribution, control, and risk factors.

For more information, visit the conference website at: