The Ottumwa Courier

December 15, 2012

Chronic wasting disease not found in wild deer

MARK NEWMAN
Courier Staff Writer

BLOOMFIELD — Though a second case of chronic wasting disease has now been found in area deer, officials say CWD still hasn’t spilled into the wild.

Multiple cases had been discovered in Iowa; the first sign of Chronic Wasting Disease was at a hunting preserve in Davis County this summer.

However, that animal was traced back to a deer-breeding facility in Cerro Gordo County. Currently, the Cerro Gordo facility is quarantined — no animals can leave. There are now three Iowa deer “livestock” raising or hunting operations that have been found to have a deer infected with chronic wasting disease, including one in Davis County.

The 330-acre Pine Ridge Hunting Lodge in Davis County has an eight-foot high fence, an electric fence inside that fence and has routine inspections conducted by the DNR to ensure the integrity of the barriers so that “no deer are coming or going from the area,” according to a press statement from the DNR.

“Has anyone told the deer that?” asked one man at a public meeting in Ottumwa this past October.

He said the animals can and do leap fences, Hunters say that’s what they worry about: An infected deer in a controlled area could pass the disease to the wild population. Some outdoors enthusiasts suggest eradicating the suspect herds.

That’s not going to happen at this point.

“In Wisconsin, to depopulate a herd [through litigation] took five years,” said Chuck Gipp, director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources . “We’ve learned from the surrounding states. This is private property. When you bring in the lawyers, it takes longer. It costs more. We’re hopeful we will [get this resolved] more quickly by working with the landowner.”  

The diseased deer are not currently considered a threat to human beings, pets, livestock or any species of animal other than  moose, elk and deer.

Those deer, healthy or diseased, are private property. And they are on private property. The law does not permit the government to come on someone’s land and take or destroy legally owned property.

What is chronic wasting disease in deer?

.The DNR says CWD is caused by an abnormal protein that affects the brains of infected animals, causing them to lose weight, display abnormal behavior and lose bodily functions.

Stephen Moline, an Iowa Department of Agriculture division director who spoke recently in Ottumwa, said so far, no evidence has shown a cross contamination from deer to cow or deer to human.

CWD is very contagious, with even nose-to-nose contact discouraged between quarantined animals and the wild population.

In fact, with deer, it’s easier. Those “salt blocks” some nature lovers put out are a danger. An infected deer licks the salt block, followed by a healthy deer. Every deer enjoying that salt block could end up infected.

Dumping an infected carcass improperly can also spread the wasting disease more quickly.

Hunters in the area around Davis County can have their deer tested in order to help the DNR control the spread of the illness. Contact your local DNR office.