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Effort underway to sample for fatal deer disease in Allamakee, Clayton counties

Deer hunters participating in the first weekend of the nine day scientific collection effort in the surveillance zones in Allamakee and Clayton counties provided 54 tissue samples to state officials that will be tested for the presence of chronic wasting disease.

Chronic wasting disease is a neurologic disease of deer, moose and elk, belonging to the family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) or prion diseases. Though it shares certain features with other TSEs like bovine spongiform encephalopathy (“Mad Cow Disease”) or scrapie in sheep, it is a distinct disease apparently affecting only deer, moose and elk. It is always fatal.

The disease first appeared in Iowa’s wild deer herd in 2013 and each year since, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has placed extra emphasis on tracking the movement of the disease with the cooperation of successful hunters.

The scientific collection effort was outcome of meetings in Harpers Ferry and Elkader on Jan. 18 that drew more than 125 attendees.

Terry Haindfield, wildlife biologist with the Iowa DNR, who is coordinating the effort to contain and limit the spread of the fatal deer disease, led those meetings.

“Our hope with this effort is to collect samples from specific sections in these zones where we don’t have much data, from adult animals which are those more likely to have picked the disease, and if we can, to remove additional positive deer that will no longer be spreading this disease on the environment for others to become infected,” Haindfield said.

“We are doing everything we can to try to contain or slow the spread of this disease until science can catch up and give us some tools to fight it. We can’t do this alone and are grateful for the cooperation for the hunters and landowners,” he said. “We want the tradition of hunting to continue.”

The collection effort ends Jan. 28.

Permits to participate in the collection effort are available at the DNR office in Harpers Ferry or the Clayton County Conservation Osborne Nature Center, which will serve as the designated check stations. Permits will be available at the check stations daily during the Jan. 20-28 collecting period, starting at 8 a.m. on weekends and noon on the weekdays.

Scientific collection effort weekend results

Allamakee County Surveillance Zone

41 deer collected: 34 sampled, 7 fawns not sampled
264 collectors operating under 64 permits
Goal: 300 samples, not more than 75 from Yellow River State Forest

Clayton County Surveillance Zone

26 deer collected: 20 sampled, 6 fawns not sampled
198 collectors operating under 50 permits
Goal: 300 samples

The collection effort ends Jan. 28.

Deer tissue test kits available, results coming in

Iowa has two deer confirmed positive for chronic wasting disease from the 2017 season – one each from the Allamakee and Clayton County surveillance zones – and five suspected positives.

The five suspected positive are all in the Allamakee County surveillance zone and are going through a second confirmation test.

Labs at Colorado State University and Iowa State University continue to process tissue samples and report the results to the Iowa DNR.