Hunters in Saskatchewan urged to get animals tested for chronic wasting disease

Chronic wasting disease is a fatal, infectious central nervous system disease that affects cervid species — deer, elk, moose and caribou. AP Photo/Brennan Linsley

The Saskatchewan government says hunters should get their animals tested after identifying 84 cases of chronic wasting disease (CWD) so far this year in the province.

CWD is a fatal, infectious central nervous system disease that affects cervid species — deer, elk, moose and caribou. There is no known cure.

Read more: Keeping chronic wasting disease in mind as Saskatchewan hunting season approaches

Symptoms include unusual behaviour, lack of co-ordination, listlessness, drooling, drooping ears, drastic weight loss, excessive thirst or urination and separation from other animals in the herd.

“Despite the challenges and changes we’ve all had to face in 2020, more than 1,300 heads have already been submitted as part of the ministry’s voluntary CWD surveillance program,” Environment Minister Warren Kaeding said Thursday in a statement.

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“Identifying the presence and spread of CWD in the province will help guide the development of disease management plans.”

CWD can only be confirmed by testing specific tissues from an animal after it is dead, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said.

Read more: ‘Zombie deer disease’ has spread to 2 provinces and 24 states

The Saskatchewan government said hunters in wildlife management zones (WMZ) 2W, 9, 10, 35 and 37 should submit mule deer and white-tailed deer heads for testing. Free testing is available for all cervid species harvested in any WMZ in the province.

The information collected will be used by researchers to help understand how the disease is affecting wildlife populations in Saskatchewan.

CWD impacts in some parts of North America are resulting in decreased survival rates and population decline in mule deer, according to researchers.

Click to play video: 'BC Interior Deer Project'
BC Interior Deer Project

Although there has yet to be a human case of CWD identified, the government officials are recommending hunters avoid eating meat until they received their testing results.

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They are also being strongly urged by the government not to eat or distribute for human consumption meat or other parts from animals found to be CWD-positive.

Jan. 21, 2021, is the last day animal heads can be dropped off for testing. Results are usually made available six to eight weeks from drop off.

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