Fall testing finds 24 new cases of chronic wasting disease in North Dakota, Game and Fish Department says
Confirmed cases included 22 hunter-harvested mule deer, one harvested white-tailed deer and one mule deer hit by a vehicle.
BISMARCK – Results from testing efforts during North Dakota’s 2022 deer hunting season indicate 24 deer tested positive for chronic wasting disease, the state Game and Fish Department reported Monday, March 13. Most of the fall sampling efforts are complete, according to a department news release.
Eight deer testing positive were from hunting unit 3F2, eight from unit 3A1, two from unit 4B and one from units 3B1 and 3E2. Single positive deer were also found in four new units – 3A3, 3E1, 3F1 and 4F – where the disease had not been previously detected.
The number of new cases was on par with results from the 2021 hunting season, when 26 cases were found. That’s an encouraging trend, Casey Anderson, wildlife division chief, said.
“While we certainly wish the number was zero, this stable trend is a good thing and supports our current management approach,” Anderson said in a statement.
CWD is a fatal disease of deer, moose and elk that remains on the landscape and can cause long-term population impacts as infection rates climb. The 2022 results come while the North Dakota Legislature considers a bill that would strip the Game and Fish Department’s ability to restrict baiting as a means to combat CWD.
“Baiting restrictions are one of only a few tools the department has to try to slow down how fast CWD spreads,” Dr. Charlie Bahnson, wildlife veterinarian for Game and Fish, said in a statement. “Artificially concentrating deer from August through November puts more animals in contact with each other and each other’s bodily fluids. That’s a lot of unnecessary risk that’s hard to justify in areas where CWD has been detected.”
CWD forces Game and Fish to make tough decisions that leave some people unhappy, Anderson said.
“That said, the department is charged with protecting the health of the deer herd for current and future use,” he said. “It’d be irresponsible of us to ignore the serious threat CWD poses, and we hope to have every tool available to do our job. Unfortunately, with CWD, we don’t get a redo.”
Confirmed cases included 22 hunter-harvested mule deer, one harvested white-tailed deer and one mule deer hit by a vehicle. The estimated infection rates among mule deer were 4.9% in unit 3F2 and 9.8% in unit 3A1. Only 4.4% of hunters submitted heads for testing in units where the department focused its surveillance efforts.
Game and Fish did not report any cases from unit 2B along the Red River. Game and Fish designated 2B, which covers an area roughly from Grand Forks to Fargo, as a CWD surveillance unit in the fall of 2021 after a single whitetail buck unexpectedly tested positive for the disease near Climax on the Minnesota side of the river. Additional testing last fall on the Minnesota side of the Red River didn’t find any new cases, either, the Department of Natural Resources said in February. DNR staff collected 191 samples in Deer Permit Area 661, an area extending from Oslo in the north to Beltrami, Minnesota, in the south, during the 2022 deer season, according to Erik Hildebrand, DNR wildlife health supervisor.
Monday’s announcement brings the number of confirmed CWD cases in North Dakota to 94 since 2009, when the disease was first detected in unit 3F2 in southwestern North Dakota. Game and Fish will use the 2022 surveillance data to guide its CWD management strategy moving forward. More information about CWD can be found on the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website at gf.nd.gov.