051105 Officials from the North Dakota Game and Fish Department continue to receive good news from scientists conducting tests for chronic wasting disease.

Test results for CWD on more than 1,900 wild deer and 26 elk collected from hunters during the 2004 hunting season are negative, according to Greg Link, department assistant wildlife chief.

Samples for CWD testing were sent to the Wyoming State Veterinary Lab last December, and game and fish officials were notified of the results Wednesday. “This is good news,” Link said. “However, continued vigilance is the key to managing this disease and we won’t be letting our guard down. We’re already in the process of setting up next hunting season’s sampling effort.”

Samples from hunter-harvested deer were taken from animals last fall in six of the eight CWD surveillance units in the state. The six units cover most of the state, except for a couple of units in the southeast where sampling in previous years achieved the statistical quota. “The efforts from hunters, fur buyers, meat processors, our staff and other agencies have been tremendous,” Link said. “We’re very appreciative of their cooperation and assistance.”

The goal of the Hunter-Harvested Surveillance program is to obtain a statistically significant sample (458 animals) in each surveillance unit within a two-year period, Link said. “Over the last three years, the entire state has been sampled,” he added. “In all but one surveillance unit in northeastern North Dakota, we’ve obtained and tested enough samples to say with a high degree of confidence that CWD is likely not present.”

Since 2002, more than 4,000 deer and 80 elk have tested negative for CWD. To date, CWD has not been diagnosed in wild or farmed deer or elk in North Dakota.

“We will continue to be aggressive in our monitoring efforts and support for CWD research,” Link said, while noting the department will continue to monitor and collect suspect deer and elk, including road-killed animals, throughout the year.

Chronic wasting disease affects the nervous system of white-tailed deer, mule deer and elk and is always fatal. Scientists have found no evidence that CWD can be transmitted naturally to humans or livestock.