Results from tests completed at the National Veterinary Services Lab in Ames confirm none of the Iowa whitetail deer tested for chronic wasting disease (CWD) over the past year showed any signs of the disease. State wildlife officials began testing road-killed deer last spring, however most of the 3,278 samples submitted for testing this fall came from hunters who voluntarily submitted their deer for sampling.
“When chronic wasting disease was first discovered in Wisconsin in February 2002, we knew it was imperative to test for CWD in Iowa,” said Richard Bishop, chief of the DNR’s Wildlife Bureau. “Obviously, we are very pleased with the results. However, with the presence of CWD in Wisconsin and Illinois and in captive elk in Minnesota, we will continue to aggressively monitor and test for the disease in Iowa.”
“Although samples were collected from across the state, testing was emphasized in the northeast Iowa border counties of Allamakee, Clayton, Dubuque and Jackson, the area closest to the CWD endemic zone in Wisconsin,” said Dale Garner, head of the DNR’s CWD monitoring program.
Despite the good news, state wildlife officials will continue testing this year to ensure the health of the Iowa deer herd. Garner said wildlife staff is testing road-killed deer again this spring. He said that the Department will collect samples from hunter harvested deer again this fall.
“Without hunter help last year, we wouldn’t have reached our testing goal,” Garner said. “And we hope to see the same level of support this fall.”
CWD is a neurological disease affecting deer and elk. It is caused by an abnormal protein — known as a prion — that essentially eats holes in the brains of infected animals. In the latter stages of the disease, animals appear disoriented, lethargic and emaciated. They often exhibit excessive thirst, salivation, urination and drooping head and ears. It is always fatal to the infected animal. Anyone seeing a deer exhibiting these symptoms should immediately contact the Iowa DNR.
CWD was first discovered in northeastern Colorado in 1967. Since then, it has also been documented in wild deer or elk in Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Saskatchewan, Canada. It has also been found in captive deer or elk in Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Saskatchewan and Alberta, Canada.