Handling heads is not how most people make their living. But, for local Wildlife Technician Dwight Dobson, it’s just another day at the office.
He is part of a province wide effort to control Chronic Wasting Disease. To help facilitate that, the Department of Environment is requesting that all hunters submit head samples of white-tailed deer, and mule deer, to their local Saskatchewan Environment office.
In Maple Creek, those offices are located at the Rural Service Centre, on Harder Street.
Once hunters bring their sample to the centre, Saskatchewan Environment staff will forward the head to the University of Saskatchewan where it will be tested.
So far, four deer have tested positive for the disease in the province — three in the Manito Sandhills area near Lloydminster, and one North of Swift Current, in Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park.
Another possible positive test in Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park is currently under investigation.
The incident at Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park was the first time that a positive result was found outside of the Lloydminster area, and it sparked the call for province wide testing.
Saskatchewan Environment’s Kevin Omoth feels that the effort of obtaining samples from across the province is justified.
[Saskatchewan Environment] is guardedly optimistic that we won’t find evidence of the disease outside of the current locations.”
That said, before [the positive results at Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park] we were optimistic that we wouldn’t find it outside of the Lloydminster area.”
If it is out there we need to know so that we can aggressively take measures to control it.”
The most effective way to control the spread of the disease is to destroy as many animals as possible within a 6 km radius of the contaminated area.
That type of aggressive measures is necessary because chronic wasting disease has the potential to destroy entire populations of deer.
The disease, which causes affected animals to gradually lose body function, is always fatal and has no know cure.
Omoth understands that it might be inconvenient for hunters to provide samples. However, he feels the benefit of doing so should be obvious.
This is a disease that affects wild deer.”
These tests can help us make sure that this disease does not kill more deer.”
In Omoth’s mind, eradicating Chronic Wasting Disease is important despite the fact that it has no known effect on humans.
In Maple Creek, the response to the call for samples has been slowly building.
Dobson encourages local hunters to continue bringing in their samples.
We’ve been lucky in that all of our tests have been negative.”
However, our sample isn’t as big as it could be.”