Over the summer, there were several cases of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) detected in Montana, a hop and a skip away from the B.C. border. Currently, B.C. has maintained a CWD free status, but the proximity of the CWD cases has put the B.C. Wildlife Health program on high alert during this year’s hunting season.
The BC Wildlife Federation has been heavily invested in helping the B.C. Wildlife Health program monitor for CWD within B.C.’s borders and to spread awareness about this disease that affects cervids.
Chronic Wasting Disease...What is it?
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a degenerative neurological disease that affects species in the deer family (cervids) and is caused by an abnormal protein called a prion. The origins of CWD are not known but the disease was first described in captive mule deer and elk in Colorado and Wyoming in the 1960s, followed by positive diagnoses in free-ranging deer and elk populations.
The B.C. Wildlife Health program has been doing surveillance for CWD in free-ranging cervids since 2002. To date, over 3900 samples have been tested and there have been no CWD positive cases in B.C. Surveillance is key to understanding the disease risk of CWD in British Columbia. For this reason, hunters are encouraged to submit their deer, elk or moose head for CWD testing. This is voluntary in most parts of B.C. but is mandatory for all white-tailed and mule deer harvested September 1, 2019, to December 20, 2019, in wildlife management units 4-1, 4-2, 4-3, 4-4, 4-5, 4-6 and 4-7.
To help this initiative, the B.C. Wildlife Federation purchased and donated ten freezers that were placed at the different drop-off locations throughout the Kootenay and Peace Region. The Federation also had a fundraising campaign during the week leading up to National Hunting, Trapping and Fishing Heritage Day to raise funds to support the efforts to keep B.C. CWD free!
How can you help?
If you hunt in an area outside B.C. that is affected with CWD, please leave the high risk tissues (brain, spinal cord, lymph nodes and organs) where you harvest the animal and return only with the meat, antlers with cleaned skull plate and/or hide (in a sealed container) with all tissue removed.
Surveillance is key to confirm B.C.’s CWD-free status and to detect the disease as early as possible so we can respond in the most effective way possible. Hunters in B.C. are encouraged to submit their cervid heads to the BC CWD Surveillance Program at one of the drop-off locations.
A full list of these drop off locations and more information can be found on the Chronic Wasting Disease government website.
Please report any sick or unusually thin animals to the RAPP line at 1-877-952-7277.
Chronic Wasting Disease Current Update
The BC Wildlife Health Program is happy to report that the Kootenay samples from October and early November (479 samples) have all come back negative for CWD! These results are now posted on the website: www.gov.bc.ca/chronicwastingdisease
Mandatory submission of deer along the BC-Montana border is finished for the season. Over 1000 heads have now been submitted from the Kootenay Region. Submission numbers have also been good in the Peace Region and the Okanagan, with a number of new drop off locations established this season. Thank you to the clubs for donating and hosting freezers, and a big thank-you to all of the hunters that have participated and continue to support the Program.
The hunting season is wrapping up, but CWD testing will continue through the winter with the last of the hunter samples, road kills and any animal presenting with CWD-like symptoms. More samples mean better confidence in healthy wildlife populations, so let’s continue to be proactive and protect B.C’s deer, elk, moose and caribou from CWD.
Stay tuned for more updates in the new year.