Eight deer taken during the 2019 North Dakota deer gun season tested positive for chronic wasting disease, according to Dr. Charlie Bahnson, wildlife veterinarian for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.
All were antlered deer taken from areas previously known to have CWD – six from unit 3F2 and two from 3A1. Bahnson said six of the eight were mule deer, with two whitetails from unit 3F2. CWD was not detected in any deer harvested in the eastern portion of the state where hunter-harvested surveillance was conducted last fall. In addition, no elk or moose tested positive.
“Only about 15% of hunters submit heads for testing in units where CWD has been found, so the infection rate is more meaningful than the raw number of positive animals found,” Bahnson said. “Approximately 3% of harvested mule deer were infected with CWD in unit 3F2, and roughly 2% in unit 3A1. Our infection rate in whitetails in 3F2 was about 1%.
“Overall,” he continued, “we could probably live with these current infection rates long-term, but they suggest an upward trend and we’ve certainly seen an expansion in the known distribution of the disease. We need to continue to try to limit the spread within our herds as best as we can. CWD is a fatal disease of deer, moose and elk that can cause long-term population declines if left unchecked.”
Bahnson said the eight positive deer put the total at 11 detected since Sept 1. As previously reported, two mule deer taken in September tested positive for CWD – one was harvested during the archery season from deer gun unit 4B and one during the youth season in unit 3A1. CWD was also detected in a white-tailed deer from unit 3F2 that was euthanized in December following a report from the public that it appeared sick and was displaying erratic behavior.
Game and Fish will use its 2019 surveillance data to guide its CWD management strategy moving forward. More information about CWD can be found at the Game and Fish Department’s website, gf.nd.gov/cwd.