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Testing finds 21 new Chronic Wasting Disease cases in deer

DES MOINES — The Iowa Department of Natural Resources reports several new cases of chronic wasting disease in test samples submitted from wild deer this hunting season.

Tyler Harms leads the program that tracks the disease in deer. He says they tested around 6,000 deer and found 21 new positive deer, and most of the positives came from counties where there have already been positive CWD tests.

There were two counties that had positive tests for the first time. “Those are Jackson County in eastern Iowa and also Appanoose County in southern Iowa. Now the positive deer that we found in those two counties are both just outside of existing disease management zones,” according to Harms. “So, not too surprising to see some spread outside of those zones — although it’s not obviously something we’d like to see.”

Harms says the management zones are designed to keep the disease from spreading. “Typically what we try to do is increase antlerless harvest within those zones and manage our populations at the low end of our population goals,” Harms says. “That increased antlerless harvest really does two things for us — one, it increases our chances of removing diseased deer from the landscape. And it also reduces deer densities to help slow the spread of the disease.”

CWD is always fatal to deer. Harms says the tissue testing is part of the overall effort to keep the disease under control. “The interesting thing with chronic wasting disease is we are constantly learning more about the best approaches to take to manage this disease,” Harms says.

He says the disease is much more prevalent in some of the states surrounding Iowa. “For the most part we are containing it in the areas where we have it,” he says. “We are really not seeing introduction into new areas that are far out from our disease management zones. So that is certainly a good thing.”

There have been 111 wild Iowa deer that have tested positive for the disease since 2013 when it was first discovered in the state.

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