Because Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has recently been detected in two mule deer in Unit 14 , Fish and Game officials are asking hunters in Unit 14 and nearby units to have any animal they harvest tested for Chronic Wasting Disease and follow practices designed to minimize the chance of spreading the disease any farther.
Fish and Game needs hunters to provide more samples from harvested deer and elk to determine how widespread the disease is and the prevalence of infection. Testing also allows hunters to know if an animal that they harvested has the disease.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends hunters do not eat meat from animals infected with CWD. Hunters who harvest deer, elk or moose in areas known to have CWD are advised to bone out the meat and not eat the brain or spinal cord.
How to provide a sample for testing
Hunters can collect lymph nodes for CWD sampling from their harvested animal and turn the nodes into Fish and Game to be tested. They can get instructions and also watch a video on how to locate lymph nodes at idfg.idaho.gov/cwd. Hunters can also request a lymph node sample kit and directions from Fish and Game by calling any Fish and Game regional office.
If hunters are not comfortable collecting lymph nodes from animals, they can provide the head to Fish and Game to collect the samples. The head should be kept cool or frozen until the sample is collected. If frozen, the head must be thawed prior to sample collection.
Heads can be taken to a Fish and Game regional office, and Fish and Game officials encourage hunters to use drop off locations closest to where they hunted.
To assist with samples, Fish and Game is operating the following check stations from Nov. 19 to Nov. 24 from 10 a.m. local time until sunset:
- Highway 95 South near New Meadows mile post 172
- Highway 95 North near Cottonwood mile post 252
- Highway 13 near Stites mile post 23
- (See map below)
If someone harvests an animal in Unit 14 or 15 and needs further assistance with samples, call the Clearwater Regional Office at 208-799-5010.
There are also numerous drop off locations for heads around the state. To see locations go to the CWD webpage.
CWD testing is free for hunters, and turnaround time is approximately 4-6 weeks. Hunters will be contacted directly if their samples are positive, and they can also look up the results online.
Meat or muscle tissue cannot be used to test for CWD.
CWD precautions while in the field
Experts believe CWD proteins likely spring directly between animals or indirectly through environmental contamination of soil, food, or water. Studies have shown that CWD prions can remain in the environment for 2-16 years so other animals can contract CWD from the environment even after an infected deer or elk has died.
To prevent the possible spread of CWD, big game hunters in Unit 14 are strongly encouraged to quarter out the animal and leave the spinal column of the harvested deer or elk in the field, or use the “gutless method” to field dress it. Many examples of this method can be found online in videos.
If a lymph node sample is taken in the field, the hunter should also leave the animal’s head and any brain matter that may remain if antlers are removed.
If a hunter takes the whole head out of the field, it should be taken to a Fish and Game regional office, check station or other designated location to have a sample removed, then the head will remain onsite and Fish and Game staff will properly dispose of it.
What exactly is CWD?
CWD is a contagious disease that affects the nervous systems of deer, elk, moose and reindeer. CWD is believed to be caused by abnormal, misfolded forms of the prion protein accumulating within brain cells, which causes progressive damage to those cells and brain damage.
CWD has a very long incubation period (time between infection and observable disease) that typically takes at least 10 months for a deer or elk to show signs of illness.
CWD belongs to a group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). Other TSEs include mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy [BSE]) in cattle, scrapie in sheep, feline spongiform encephalopathy (FSE) in cats in Europe, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) and variant CreutzfeldtJakob (vCJD) in humans.
Why is F&G concerned about CWD?
There is no cure for this fatal disease, and population impacts to Idaho’s elk, deer and moose herds are a major concern. Several CWD-positive states have documented population declines and shifts in age structures resulting in fewer mature bucks in herds with a high number of animals infected with CWD, or herds that have had CWD in the population for a long time.