With the completion of this year’s North Dakota deer firearms license lottery, hunters in several units will need to be aware of regulations in place regarding hunting practices and transport of harvested animals after Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) was detected in deer taken by sportsmen in unit 3B1 last fall and from a deceased specimen found near Williston in unit 3A1 this February.
CWD is a fatal disease caused by a protein known as a prion, which damages similar proteins, particularly in the brain of cervids like deer and elk. It is comparable in nature to ailments such as mad cow disease in cattle and Creutzfeld-Jakob disease in humans, whereby the prion affects nearby proteins and creates holes in brain tissue, impairing neurological function and eventually causing death. Such prions are typically resistant to standard disinfection and even ultraviolet light and are harder to destroy than say bacteria or a virus.
According to the records of the Center for Disease Control, CWD was first detected in a herd of captive deer in the late 1960s in Colorado and spread to wild deer by 1981. As of June 7, the disease has been detected in deer, elk or moose in 24 different states in the U.S. and two Canadian provinces. There are no recorded instances of CWD transferring from animals to humans, but the World Health Organization has advised that hunters should avoid touching the brain or spinal column and related fluids of any deer from areas where CWD has been detected and consider getting their harvested deer tested, where available, prior to consuming the meat.
Bill Jensen, Big Game Biologist with the North Dakota Game & Fish Department (NDG&F) relates that those who applied for a firearms deer license in those new CWD units and units in the southern part of the state where the disease was previously detected should have received notification during the online application process of CWD-related transport and hunting restrictions in their desired units. In an effort to keep information flowing, the NDG&F will also continue to advise those hunters of the situation when tags are distributed.
“They’ll be receiving information in the mail,” Jensen stated, “and there is additional information on our website,” he concluded, referencing the updated CWD proclamation signed into law by Gov. Doug Burgum in March of this year following confirmation of new areas of concern in the state.
Other restrictions in place for those areas under the proclamation include the elimination of the use of bait for hunting. Under the proclamation, bait is defined as: grain, seed, mineral, salt, fruit, vegetable nut, hay, any naturally derived scent or lure (e.g. urine), or natural or manufactured food placed by an individual; it cannot be used to hunt big game such as deer, or attract them for the purpose of hunting in deer hunting units 3C west of the Missouri River, 3E1, 3E2, 3F1, and 3F2, 3A1, 3A2 and north of state highway 2 in unit 3A3. As a result, common tactics used in units elsewhere in the state such as creating mineral licks or bait piles or utilizing a scent wick with doe urine to draw bucks near to a stand or blind, are not allowed in these seven units in order to prevent the spread of CWD.
“CWD can be transmitted through saliva, urine or feces, and it’s been documented that in Wisconsin where they put up trail cameras or observed from blinds, that up to 35 individual deer can visit the same five gallon pile of corn,” explained Jensen of the vectors for the disease, “and it’s sort of intuitive; if you had the flu, would you want 34 other family members using your toothbrush?”
In addition to restrictions regarding baits and other lures, the proclamation places limits on transport of deer, moose or elk from states with CWD into North Dakota and out of some units in which they may be harvested this fall. Those hunting in units 3A1 and 3F2 should be aware that white-tailed or mule deer cannot be transported out of those units, save for a few exceptions, such as processing, where the brain and spinal column and surrounding areas are removed from the animal after harvest.
For more information on CWD, visit cdc.gov/prions/cwd/. For an extensive review of CWD in North Dakota, along with regulations, tips, and answers to common questions, visit the NDG&F’s dedicated CWD landing page at: https://gf.nd.gov/wildlife/diseases/cwd/faq. The North Dakota 2019 CWD Proclamation can be viewed at: https://gf.nd.gov/gnf/regulations/docs/cwd/proc-cwd-2019.pdf