SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The Department of Natural Resources is undertaking additional testing of white-tailed deer in Boone, McHenry and Winnebago counties for chronic wasting disease, where seven confirmed cases of CWD have occurred.
IDNR will be taking samples at Rock Cut State Park in Winnebago County, owned by the Department; Kinnikinnick Conservation Area owned by the Boone County Conservation District; and select properties owned by private individuals. The deer removal is being conducted by teams comprised of USDA Wildlife Services staff and IDNR biologists. Properties that have been selected are located in the areas in which CWD-positive deer have been found, and contain significant blocks of deer habitat where the animals tend to concentrate during winter.
Chronic wasting disease is a fatal neurological disease found in deer and elk. The disease affects the brains of infected animals, causing them to become emaciated, display abnormal behavior, lose coordination and eventually die. It is not known to be contagious to livestock or humans.
So far, about 3,500 tests for CWD have been completed on the 4,100 samples taken from hunter-harvested deer. A total of seven deer have tested positive, including six taken during the firearm deer season in November and December. All of the positive cases have been in Boone, McHenry and Winnebago counties.
“This additional testing, concentrating on known CWD areas, will allow us to better assess the status of CWD in northern Illinois,” said Paul Shelton, IDNR’s Forest Wildlife Program Manager. Shelton noted that biologists have been unable to conduct aerial deer population surveys due to a lack of snow cover in the vicinity of known CWD-positive animals, but they intend to conduct the surveys as soon as weather conditions allow.
Additional samples will help biologists determine how long CWD may have been present and the distribution and prevalence of the disease. Sampling is expected to be completed by the end of February or early March, with results several weeks later. The test results will help the Department further refine its strategy for dealing with the disease. The deer carcasses will be held in an approved facility until CWD test results are available. Deer that test negative will be processed and donated to food pantries.
For updated information about chronic wasting disease, including answers to frequently asked questions and the Department’s rules, please see our web site at: http://dnr.state.il.us/pubaffairs/2002/CWD.htm. A web application that allows participating hunters to check the status of test results for deer sampled during the firearm deer season is available at that site.