The discovery of chronic wasting disease in Saskatchewan deer about 100 kilometres from the Manitoba border has led to new testing requirements for hunters from The Pas to Swan River.

Manitoba’s Conservation Department wants the head and neck of any harvested deer to be dropped off at a depot so that testing can be done to see whether the brain disease is present.

“We’ve instituted a regulation where hunters are required to submit samples for testing,” Rich Davis, a wildlife biologist with the Conservation Department, told CBC News on Friday. “I’d just like to assure any hunters that we will test the animal and get back to them as soon as possible if the animal is positive.”

Davis said that there is no evidence that the disease can be transmitted to humans.

An information brochure from the Conservation Department says it is safe to eat meat from deer and elk in Manitoba. However, the document also cites a recommendation from the World Health Organization that meat from infected animals should not be consumed.

Davis said that Manitoba has been testing deer since 1997, with some 2,000 samples analyzed from animals harvested in the southern parts of the province. He said the disease has not been detected.

In some cases a sick animal will show symptoms of the disease, Davis noted.

“It’ll be very thin. It’ll drool a lot,” he said. “It’ll look very unhealthy. It has a hard time lifting its head up.”

The area under increased surveillance spans some 230 kilometres between the western Manitoba communities of The Pas and Swan River.

More than a dozen locations in Manitoba are designated as depots for dropping off the required animal parts for testing.

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