The Panhandle Region of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) is asking hunters to help with a surveillance program looking for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). This is part of a general surveillance, rotational sampling strategy that IDFG initiated in 2017 to monitor for CWD.
Fish and Game staff are seeking voluntary sample submissions from hunters that harvest white-tailed and mule deer in the region. Biologists will be operating check stations around the region this fall where samples will be taken from interested hunters’ deer. Samples are collected by removing the lymph nodes located near the base of the deer’s jaw.
The department will also have freezers at various locations in the region to collect heads from hunters who wish to have their deer sampled. There is currently a freezer located in Bonner’s Ferry at Far North Outfitters, 6791 S Main Street; and in Sagle at the WaterLife Discovery Center, 1591 Lakeshore Drive. Each freezer has instructions attached to it and tags to be filled out for each head. Additionally, hunters can bring deer into the Regional Office in Coeur d’Alene to have samples taken.
Fish and Game would also like samples from salvaged road-killed deer. Individuals who pick up a road-killed deer are encouraged to bring the head from the deer to the regional office in Coeur d’Alene or to deposit the head in one of the freezers located around the region. It is important that heads from road killed deer have accurate information about the date of salvage and the location of pick-up (highway and milepost marker number).
All heads should be kept cool or frozen until transferred to Fish and Game staff or deposited in an IDFG freezer. Testing will take approximately 4 to 6 weeks after samples are submitted. Hunters will only be contacted by IDFG staff if their deer sample tests positive for CWD, and will not receive notification if their deer sample tests negative.
Fish and Game has not detected CWD in Idaho since testing began in 1997. CWD is a contagious, fatal neurological disease that affects deer, elk, and moose. Neighboring states (Montana, Utah, and Wyoming) have confirmed CWD-positive animals close to the Idaho border. Most recently, in the summer of 2019, several white-tailed deer sampled in Libby, Montana have tested positive for CWD.
While deer, elk, and moose affected by CWD can be healthy-looking, animals showing clinical signs can appear very thin with drooping head and ears, excessive salivation, and exhibit unusual behaviors such as a loss of fear towards humans and a general lack of coordination. Animals showing these signs should be reported to a local Conservation Officer, Fish and Game Regional Office, or the Wildlife Health Laboratory at (208) 939-9171.
The Center for Disease Control advises that there is no strong evidence that humans can acquire CWD. It is recommended to have deer and elk tested if they were harvested in a known CWD-positive area, and to not consume meat from CWD-infected animals.
For questions regarding CWD sampling in the Panhandle Region, please contact the IDFG Panhandle Regional Office at (208) 769-1414. The address of the regional office is 2885 West Kathleen Avenue, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
To learn more about CWD, visit https://idfg.idaho.gov/cwd/status