The B.C. government is asking hunters to once again submit the heads of white-tail and mule deer for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) testing now that hunting season has begun.
A general order under the Animal Health Act requires that any white-tailed deer or mule deer harvested between September 1st and December 20th 2020 in management units 4-1, 4-2, 4-3, 4-4, 4-5, 4-6, and 4-7 be submitted to the B.C. CWD program for testing.
These management units cover the southern portion of the Kootenay region, spanning from the Flathead region to Nelson.
All other species (Elk and Moose) and deer species harvested outside of the mandatory zone can be submitted on a volunteer basis. Submission is highly encouraged to increase the sample size within the province.
According to the B.C. government website, CWD is a fatal infection that affects species in the deer family such as mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, moose and caribou. The disease is caused by an abnormal protein called prion, which can be transmitted through saliva, urine, feces, carcasses and even plants. An infected animal my be contagious for months or years before appearing sick.
Signs of infection in deer include weight loss, poor coordination, stumbling and trembling. Symptoms can take over a year after infection to show.
According to the BC Center for Disease Control, there is no evidence that CWD can be transmitted to humans, however public health experts recommend that any animal suspected or confirmed to have CWD should not be eaten as a precaution.
CWD has not yet been detected in B.C. but it has continued to spread in almost all affected jurisdictions despite mitigation and management efforts.
In June of last year, CWD was found in a white-tailed deer in Libby, Montana which is close to the B.C. border. A moose in northwest Montana also tested positive for CWD in November of 2019. CWD has been found in Alberta as well.
There are many places where hunters can submit the heads of their deer for testing. In Cranbrook and Kimberley, drop-off locations include Gwinner’s Country Butcher, Kimberley Sausage and Meats, and Rick’s Fine Meat and Sausage. In addition, heads can also be dropped off at any B.C. Wildlife or Conservation Officer Service location during business hours.
There are several conditions to be met before heads can be dropped off. A full list of conditions, drop-off locations and more information about CWD can be found on the B.C. government website.
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