Game Fish and Parks seeking hunters to assist with CWD testing in Clark County
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a fatal brain disease of deer, elk, and moose that is caused by an abnormal protein called a prion. Animals infected with CWD show symptoms that consist of loss of weight and body condition, behavioral changes, excessive salivation, increased drinking and urination, depression, loss of muscle control and eventual death. It is important to note that deer can have CWD for an undetermined period of time before showing any of these symptoms. Chronic wasting disease has not been diagnosed in wild deer or elk in northeast South Dakota. However, in March of 2019, a sick elk at a captive facility in Clark County was euthanized and tested positive for CWD. State Animal Industry Board officials are still investigating where the captive elk may have contracted the disease. Although we have tested sick deer exhibiting symptoms of CWD in the northeast for numerous years, we have not detected CWD in wild deer in this area.
Chronic wasting disease poses serious challenges to the long-term sustainability and management of wild deer and elk. South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) recently completed a CWD Action Plan, in which one goal is to determine the presence/absence of CWD in certain areas. In an effort to achieve this, we intend to increase monitoring efforts for the disease by working with hunters to submit samples for CWD testing from harvested white-tailed deer in Clark County this fall.
The process for hunters to participate is simple and all results will be available upon completion of testing at the SDSU Diagnostic Laboratory. Research has shown that probability of detection is higher in older aged deer so adult deer are preferred. The needed tissues are the retropharyngeal lymph nodes located in the throat area near the back of the lower jaw. To make it easier, hunters will be able to drop off the whole deer head. Outlined below are ways hunters can submit their Clark County deer for testing.
• Archery, Muzzleloader, Mentored, Late Antlerless, Youth or Apprentice seasons – Hunters are encouraged to submit deer harvested during these seasons. To do so, please contact the Watertown (605-882-5200), Webster (605-345-3381) or Aberdeen (605-626-2391) GFP offices during business hours to arrange a submission.
• Firearms Season (Nov. 23 -Dec. 8) – Since this is the time when the most hunters are in the field, GFP is working with local businesses within Clark County to provide collection sites where hunters can drop off entire deer heads. Each drop off site will consist of a bright orange sign including step by step instructions and a barrel to leave the deer head in. Deer harvested by other legal means during this time period can also be dropped off at designated sites. GFP staff will be checking barrels and collecting samples regularly throughout the firearm season.
Understandably, not every hunter will want to drop off the deer’s head if they wish to do some form of a taxidermy mount. In that situation, hunters still wishing to participate can contact either the Webster or Watertown GFP office or your local GFP representative. We can work with you or a taxidermist to make sure the cape and antlers are preserved for mounts while still being able to pull the samples needed for CWD testing.
This is a voluntary testing program but we are encouraging hunters to please help us determine if this disease is present in wild deer populations. GFP will be hosting a public open house meeting in early October to share information on CWD and our plans to monitor for the disease. Please be on the lookout for more details on the open house in the near future. Anyone from the public is encouraged to attend and ask questions. For more information on chronic wasting disease, management and disease testing visit our website at https://gfp.sd.gov/chronic-wasting-disease/.