West Fargo

Last fall, I wrote about specific restrictions that regulate the importation of deer carcasses and heads from other states, and the rules for transporting deer out of deer hunting Unit 3F2 in south central North Dakota.

Unit 3F2, located west of the Missouri River and bordering the South Dakota state line, is targeted because it is the only deer hunting unit in the state from which the North Dakota Game and Fish Department has documented deer with chronic wasting disease. That was the case again this past season, as Game and Fish announced recently that a mule deer doe and a mule deer buck taken during the 2016 deer gun season from unit 3F2 tested positive for CWD, according to Dr. Dan Grove, wildlife veterinarian for the department.

Statistically, the total now stands at just nine deer to test positive for CWD since the first discovery in 2009, and all were from within unit 3F2.

Since that first discovery, Game and Fish has collected deer heads from 3F2 hunters for testing. During the 2016 season, hunters provided 350 deer heads from unit 3F2 for Game and Fish to test. In addition, another 1,050 deer harvested in the eastern third of the state were tested. This hunter-harvested surveillance program annually collects samples taken from deer in specific regions to help determine if CWD is present in other parts of the state.

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In 2017, Game and Fish will test deer taken from the central portion of the state.

Since the Game and Fish Department's sampling efforts began in 2002, more than 30,000 deer, elk and moose have tested negative for CWD.

CWD affects the nervous system of members of the deer family and is always fatal to animals that. I should note that scientists have found no evidence that CWD can be transmitted naturally to humans or livestock.

In addition to restrictions on transport of deer from 3F2, North Dakota also has laws in place to reduce the potential for importing and spreading CWD from other popular states, such as Wyoming and Colorado, which have zones where chronic wasting disease is known to exist in the wild deer and elk populations.

Winter deer survey update

On another deer-related front, Game and Fish Department biologists recently completed an aerial white-tailed deer population survey over much of the state. While the final numbers aren't all tallied just yet, wildlife division chief Jeb Williams relayed on the Game and Fish webcast, Outdoors Online, last week, that it looks like in many survey blocks deer numbers are higher than they were the last time the survey was completed a few years ago.

Williams said the survey data will help gauge where the deer population is at. "If you do not have enough snow to do the surveys, that is also good," Williams added, "as it also means that the deer are probably wintering fairly well because you do not have enough snow to do the surveys."

While this winter started off with a lot of snow and severe cold and wind, Williams said the moderation since then has been a positive for deer and other wildlife. "We don't know what March is going to bring, we do not know what April is going to bring," he said. "We just know what January has been, and what it looks like February is going to end with, and that is certainly good news."