Submitted by Tanya Roerick, Wildlife Biologist, Leech Lake Division of Resource Management
Chronic wasting disease (CWD), a fatal brain disease which infects deer, elk, and moose, has previously been found in SE Minnesota. Recently a deer farm in Beltrami County had several deer test positive for CWD. This farm is close to the Reservation boundary and it is unknown at this time if the disease has escaped the farm. Diseases of this type are a concern to all of us because of its potential to affect our deer population, hunting, and health.
The Leech Lake Division of Resource Management (DRM) will be providing free CWD testing for deer harvested by tribal deer hunters. Hunters participating in the testing can drop off deer heads at the DRM in Cass Lake or several communities within the Reservation. Hunters will receive a $25 voucher for their participation in CWD surveillance.
What is CWD?
CWD is a disease caused by a prion and causes the infected animal’s brain to deteriorate. It can be spread by direct and indirect contact (salt licks, bait piles, plants) between deer through saliva, feces, urine, and blood. CWD is always fatal for an infected animal and there is currently no treatment or cure.
How do you test for CWD?
At this time CWD can only be tested for by killing an animal because it requires the lymph nodes located in the head to be sent to a lab for testing. You can bring your deer head to the Leech Lake DRM or one of the other drop off locations to have your deer tested.
Signs of an infected deer:
CWD is a slow progressing disease and can take years before symptoms appear. Below are some of the most common symptoms of CWD.
- Thin, sickly appearance
- No fear of humans
- Excessive salivation, thirst, and urination
- Drooping ears
**Please report any ill looking deer to the DRM Wildlife Biologist or Conservation Officer**
Will I be able to still eat deer meat?
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is recommending that people do not consume the meat from an infected animal.
How can you help prevent CWD?
- Do not bait or feed deer
- Eliminate attractants that cause deer to congregate in an area
- Do not import animals or part of animals from infected areas
- Do not dispose of deer parts in the wild where other animals may come in contact with them.
If you have any questions regarding CWD please contact the DRM wildlife biologist at 218-335-7400.