Published November 15, 2012, 12:06 AM

CWD is a modern deer issue

When I graduated from college less than two decades ago with a degree in wildlife and fisheries management from North Dakota State University, I’d never heard of chronic wasting disease.

By: Doug Leier, The Dickinson Press

When I graduated from college less than two decades ago with a degree in wildlife and fisheries management from North Dakota State University, I’d never heard of chronic wasting disease.

I’d also venture to say my classmates in the field of natural resources or conservation law enforcement didn’t imagine how common this topic of discussion would become in a few short years.

Today, CWD is a modern management issue that has changed the workload of some biologists and also affected hunters as well with necessary restrictions, regulations and management decisions.

The disease itself 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.

This year the North Dakota Game and Fish Department continues its Hunter-Harvested Surveillance program during the 2012 hunting season, by collecting deer heads to sample for CWD and bovine tuberculosis. Collection is taking place in 17 units in western North Dakota, specifically units 3A1, 3A2, 3A3, 3B1, 3B2, 3D1, 3D2, 3E1, 3E2, 3F1, 3F2, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E and 4F.

Collection sites are set up through the end of the season and a complete listing of locations is available at the Game and Fish website at gf.nd.gov.

Every head sampled must have either the deer tag attached, or a new tag can be filled out with the license number, deer hunting unit and date harvested.

In addition, all moose and elk harvested in the state are eligible for testing.

North Dakota’s first positive test for CWD came during the fall 2009 hunt in unit 3F2. One of the Game and Fish Department’s planned responses to discovery of CWD was to prohibit hunting big game over bait in the immediate unit. Last fall, after the third CWD positive in as many years in unit 3F2, Game and Fish expanded the ban on hunting over bait to the adjacent units of 3C, 3E1, 3E2 and 3F1.

Hunting over bait is defined as the placement and/or use of bait(s) for attracting big game and other wildlife to a specific location for the purpose of hunting. Baits include but are not limited to grains, minerals, salts, fruits, vegetables, hay or any other natural or manufactured foods.

The designation does not apply to the use of scents and lures, water, food plots, standing crops or livestock feeds used in standard practices.

In addition to the units where hunting over bait is no longer allowed on either private or public land, hunting over bait is also not allowed on most other public land through the state, including state wildlife management areas; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service national wildlife refuges and waterfowl production areas; U.S. Forest Service national grasslands; and all North Dakota state school, state park and state forest service lands.

Regulations for hunting over bait apply for hunting deer apply during the regular dear gun, muzzleloader and archery seasons.

Hunters harvesting a big game animal this fall in North Dakota deer unit 3F2 cannot transport a carcass containing the head and spinal column outside of the unit unless it’s taken directly to a meat processor.

The head can be removed from the carcass and transported outside of the unit if it is to be submitted to a State Game and Fish Department district office, CWD surveillance drop-off location or a licensed taxidermist.

Leier is a biologist with the Game and Fish Department. He can be reached by email: dleier@nd.gov

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