Iowa Department of Natural Resources staff will be collecting brain tissue from more than 4,000 deer over the next few weeks that will be tested for the presence of Chronic Wasting Disease. Since 2002, the DNR has submitted 29,000 tissue samples from wild deer and none have tested positive for the disease.
While tissue samples are collected from deer in every county, the majority of samples are collected from the Mississippi River counties from Allamakee to Scott, because CWD was confirmed in wild deer in Wisconsin and Illinois in 2002.
When the Iowa DNR began collecting tissue samples, the majority were collected from lockers that process deer. In 2009, fewer lockers will be participating in the collection. The Iowa DNR is asking hunters to help by calling the local conservation officer to arrange for a sample to be collected. Hunter participation is completely voluntary.
CWD is a brain disease that can infect deer, elk and moose. The disease is always fatal, although it may remain dormant within an infected animal for long periods of time. In the later stages, animals will appear severely emaciated, lethargic, and display repetitive behaviors. Excessive thirst and salivation, tremors, extreme behavioral changes and drooping head and ears are also often displayed. Anyone observing a deer displaying these symptoms should immediately contact the Iowa DNR.
To date, there is no evidence that humans can contract CWD by eating venison. However, the National Institute of Health and Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that hunters do not eat the brain, eyeballs or spinal cord of deer, and that hunters wear protective gloves while field dressing game and boning out meat for consumption.