RAPID CITY, S.D.—As hunters gear up for the start of the Black Hills deer season, they are reminded of their role in the state’s on-going effort to test for chronic wasting disease.

“Testing really picks up with the start of deer season,” said S.D. Game, Fish and Parks Department Big Game Biologist Steve Griffin, Rapid City. “Hunters have been great about voluntarily sending in samples for testing.”

In the past few years, surveillance for CWD took place in those counties where elk and deer had been discovered with the disease: Fall River, Custer and Pennington counties and the Black Hills. This year surveillance will also take place in Grant and Deuel counties due to a CWD-infected white-tailed deer being discovered at a captive facility in Minnesota.

Hunters who receive a license in one of the CWD surveillance units will be notified by mail with details about participation, drop-off locations and testing procedures. Hunters who submit a deer or elk head for testing will be informed about the test results.

CWD is a fatal brain disease found in both captive and free-ranging elk and deer. In its late stages, animals with CWD become emaciated, behave abnormally, lose control of muscles and other bodily functions and die.

Hunters and everyone who enjoys the outdoors are being asked to be on the lookout for elk and deer that show signs of CWD. “If you see an elk or deer displaying the symptoms of CWD, please contact the Game, Fish and Parks Department,” Griffin said. “We’ll always try to sample sick or suspect deer and elk at any time of the year no matter where in South Dakota they have been discovered.”

Since 1997, more than 12,300 deer and elk have been tested for CWD in South Dakota. Of those, 32 deer and 15 elk tested positive for the disease.

For more information about the CWD surveillance program, contact the GFP Regional Office in Rapid City at (605) 394-2391 or visit the department’s Web site at www.sdgfp.info/Wildlife/hunting/BigGame/CWD.htm.

In South Dakota, chronic wasting disease testing takes place at the diagnostic lab at South Dakota State University, Brookings. The state effort is part of the National CWD Surveillance Program. Hunters who want to test deer that are harvested outside of surveillance areas should contact the diagnostic lab directly.