Saskatchewan is stepping up its fight against chronic wasting disease (CWD) with a three-pronged approach.

Beginning immediately, Saskatchewan Environment will implement the following actions:

  • Implement an intensive program testing the heads of white-tailed and mule deer taken by hunters from the areas where the disease has been found, rather than testing samples from all over the province.

  • Reduce the deer population in the areas where the disease has been found. Current science says the best way to stop the spread of CWD is through an intensive herd reduction program in the affected areas.

  • More planning for the future, which may include spot sampling around the province and intensive sampling along the edges of infected areas to determine if CWD is spreading. It will also include continuous, intensive, herd reduction in the affected areas.

“We know that chronic wasting disease is in the province and our tests have shown that it appears to be limited to three distinct areas on the western side of the province,” Environment Minister David Forbes said. “Our challenge now is finding ways to protect the rest of the province’s deer while using our budget dollars in the most effective way possible. The bottom line is that we have to try to stop the disease from spreading further.”

Saskatchewan Environment has established three Herd Reduction Areas; the South Saskatchewan River corridor near Swift Current, the Manitou Sand Hills and a portion of the Bronson Forest including an area northwest of St. Walburg.

For fall 2004 hunters will be offered free CWD control permits for use in the Herd Reduction Areas. While the control permits are valid for antlerless white-tailed and/or mule deer, once a hunter has killed two deer, he or she qualifies for a free either-sex control permit. Hunters may repeat the process as many times as they wish.

Control permits will be available on September 24th, and will be valid between October 1st and December 31st, except in the Manitou Sandhills and the Matador Pasture where grazing requirements have resulted in a November 1st start. Hunters are reminded that they must buy a 2004 Wildlife Habitat Certificate to validate their CWD control permits.

“We appreciate the vital role hunters and landowners play in combating chronic wasting disease,” Forbes said. “Hunters have helped with previous testing and herd reduction programs and landowners have allowed hunters access to their property. We appreciate their co-operation.”

Hunters who obtain free CWD control permits may submit head samples from animals harvested from the Herd Reduction Areas through designated collection points or Saskatchewan Environment offices. Only samples taken on a CWD control permit will be tested, free-of-charge, by Saskatchewan Environment.

Head samples from other areas of the province, including those taken on a draw licence or a regular licence in a Herd Reduction Area, are not required for the 2004 chronic wasting disease control program.

Hunters who harvest an animal from outside the Herd Reduction Areas or on a regular or draw licence and wish to have their samples tested for CWD should take their samples to Prairie Diagnostic Services in Saskatoon or Regina.

Hunters will be responsible for transporting their samples and for paying a $90 testing fee.

Since 1997, Saskatchewan Environment has found 34 cases of CWD in 16,400 samples. Current science indicates CWD is not transferable to humans or to traditional livestock.