North Dakota Game and Fish Department officials were notified this morning by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Veterinary Services that a sick-looking mule deer taken last fall in western Sioux County has tested positive for chronic wasting disease. This is the first time CWD has been detected in a North Dakota animal.

Dr. Dan Grove, Game and Fish Department wildlife veterinarian, said a hunter in unit 3F2 shot an adult buck that did not appear to be healthy. “As we do with our targeted surveillance efforts, we collected the sample to test for CWD and bovine tuberculosis,” Grove said.

The Game and Fish Department’s targeted surveillance program is an ongoing, year-round effort that tests animals found dead or sick.

“We have been constantly monitoring and enhancing our surveillance efforts for CWD because of its presence in bordering states and provinces,” said Greg Link, Game and Fish Department assistant wildlife division chief.

In addition to targeted surveillance, the department annually collects samples taken from hunter-harvested deer in specific regions of the state. In January, more than 3,000 targeted and hunter-harvested samples were sent to a lab in Minnesota. As of today, about two-thirds of the samples have been tested, with the one positive result. The remaining one-third will be tested over the next month.

Link said monitoring efforts have intensified in recent years and all units have been completed twice throughout the entire state.

“The deer population in unit 3F2 is above management goals, and hunter pressure will continue to be put on the population in that unit again this fall,” Link said. “We are going to be aggressive with licenses and disease surveillance in that unit.”

Since the department’s sampling efforts began in 2002, more than 14,000 deer, elk and moose have tested negative for CWD.

CWD affects the nervous system of members of the deer family and is always fatal. Scientists have found no evidence that CWD can be transmitted naturally to humans or livestock.

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