Samples taken from North Dakota deer and elk during the 2002 hunting season have tested negative for chronic wasting disease, according to Jacquie Gerads, wildlife disease biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

Gerads received the good news Monday from Dr. Beth Williams of the Wyoming State Veterinary Lab, where the CWD tests were conducted.

All 25 elk samples and 466 out of 470 deer samples were confirmed negative. Four deer samples still need to be tested, with those results available within the week, Gerads said.

Hunter-harvested deer were sampled from unit 2B in eastern North Dakota – 301 animals; units 2K1 and 2K2 in central North Dakota – 26 animals; and units 4D, 4E, 4F, 3E1, and 3E2 in the west – 132 animals. Eleven deer from other units were also included.

All 25 hunter-harvested elk were taken from western elk units.

Additionally, 44 targeted (showing signs consistent with CWD) deer and elk were sampled statewide throughout the year and also tested negative. These included 37 white-tailed deer, two mule deer, four elk, and one fallow deer.

While the long anticipated test results brought a sigh of relief, Game and Fish will continue to monitor and collect suspect deer and elk (Targeted Surveillance), including road-killed animals, Gerads said, as well as expand the Hunter-Harvested Surveillance program for the upcoming hunting season.

“Although this year’s test results are negative, we must continue to be vigilant in our monitoring efforts and support for CWD research,” Gerads said. “The information we gather through the cooperation of hunters, game processors, and others will be important in detecting and managing for this disease in North Dakota.”

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.