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Advice for hunters dealing with CWD

Chronic wasting disease has not been found in North Dakota. Surrounding states and Canadian provinces are addressing positive test results in either captive or wild deer or elk populations.

Chronic wasting disease has not been found in North Dakota. Surrounding states and Canadian provinces are addressing positive test results in either captive or wild deer or elk populations.

This is the second of a two-part series presenting facts about CWD and how North Dakota is addressing concerns.

What precautions should hunters take?

There is no scientific evidence that CWD naturally affects humans. As a general precaution, North Dakota Game and Fish Department and health officials advise that hunters take the following steps when handling and processing deer or elk:

- Avoid sick animals. Do not shoot, handle, or consume any animal that appears sick; contact your local wildlife agency personnel.


- Wear rubber/latex gloves when field dressing carcasses.

- Do not consume and minimize handling the brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils, and lymph nodes of any deer or elk (Normal field dressing coupled with boning out a carcass will remove most, if not all, of these body parts. Cutting away all fatty tissue will remove remaining lymph nodes.)

- Bone out the meat from the animal.

- Thoroughly wash hands, knives, and other tools used to field dress the animal.

- Avoid contact or consumption of any animal that appears sick.

- Request that your venison is processed separately from other hunters' venison.

- Bones and offal should be disposed through burial, landfill, or incineration.

New regulation


North Dakota issued a temporary regulation as a precaution against the potential spread of CWD. This new regulation prohibits the possession or transportation of whole carcass or carcass parts of white-tailed deer, mule deer, or elk from areas within states or provinces with documented occurrences of CWD in wild or captive populations except for:

- Meat that is cut and wrapped either commercially or privately;.

- Quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached.

- Meat that is boned out.

- Hides with no head attached.

- Clean (no meat or tissue attached) skull plate with antlers attached.

- Antlers with no meat or tissue attached.

- Upper canine teeth, also known as "buglers," "whistlers" or "ivories" or a finished taxidermy head.


A number of states also have recently established regulations on the transportation of hunter-killed deer and elk.

Out-of-state hunters should be familiar with the regulations in the state in which they hunt.

What to do if ???

What Should You Do If You See A Deer Or Elk That Looks Sick, Emaciated Or Lethargic?

Note the location and as much information as possible about the animal and situation. Call the ND Game and Fish Department at 701-328-6300, immediately. Arrangements will be made to investigate the report.

What Is The ND Game And Fish Department Doing About CWD?

To date, CWD has not been diagnosed in wild or farmed deer or elk populations in North Dakota.

The Game and Fish Department and the North Dakota Board of Animal Health have been working cooperatively to increase surveillance to detect presence or absence of CWD in North Dakota.


Game and Fish is conducting targeted surveillance throughout the state year-round, which entails recognition, collection, and submission of samples from wild deer and elk that are suspect or showing signs consistent with CWD.

Approximately 35 animals have been tested for CWD since starting the targeted surveillance program in 1996. All samples have tested not positive for CWD.

Game and Fish is using more aggressive and prompt elimination of any deer or elk exhibiting clinical signs consistent with the disease to detect incidence of CWD. The usual profile for a deer or elk suspected to have CWD is one that is at least 12 months of age, emaciated, exhibiting abnormal behavior, and/or in coordination.

Remember, these signs are not specific to CWD.

Is the Game and Fish Department testing hunter-killed deer?

Yes, beginning in fall 2002, Game and Fish will be sampling hunter-harvested deer in selected management units across the state in an effort to detect incidence of the disease. This will be an ongoing monitoring program to track disease incidence, prevalence and trends.

How can a hunter have his/her deer tested for CWD if the animal was not taken in one of the hunting units selected for CWD surveillance this year?

Hunters taking deer outside of selected hunting units may have their animal tested for CWD by contacting one of the following regional veterinary diagnostic laboratories to make arrangements for submitting the deer's brain tissue to be tested:


- Colorado State University Diagnostic Lab: (970) 491-1281.

- Wyoming State Veterinary Lab: (307) 742-6638.

- University of Nebraska Veterinary Diagnostic Center: (402) 472-1434.

These labs are certified to conduct tests for CWD and will accept samples from private individuals. Persons submitting samples directly to a lab will be responsible for paying all costs.

The department will not take deer or elk heads from outside the surveillance units, or pay for the testing of them.

What Is The ND Department of Agriculture, State Board Of Animal Health Doing About CWD?

The North Dakota Board of Animal Health is monitoring private, farmed elk and deer herds. The Board initiated mandatory inventory of all game farms in 1993 and initiated mandatory CWD surveillance, reporting, and testing in 1998 of any farmed elk or deer more than 12 months of age that dies from any cause.

Before any deer or elk is imported into the state it must have a health certificate and a five-year risk assessment, which includes a review of the herd history. As a result of the CWD surveillance program, the farmed cervid producers have submitted more than 750 brain samples for CWD testing; all samples have tested not positive. If CWD is diagnosed in a farmed cervid, the farm would be quarantined and the disease eradicated using recommended disease control strategies.


The threat of CWD is a serious concern to North Dakota and its natural resources. All practical steps to minimize the risk of the disease spreading to the state are being taken.

There is no evidence that CWD occurs in North Dakota and hunters should continue to enjoy the deer and elk hunting opportunities the state has to offer. CWD will not likely be fully understood without the assistance, cooperation, and commitment of big game hunters throughout the nation. As we learn more about the disease and its impacts on wildlife, we will keep the public informed.

Leier, an outreach biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in West Fargo, can be reached at (701) 277-0719 or at dleier@state.nd.us

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