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The Idaho Fish & Game commission on Monday, Nov. 22, approved a disease management zone in units 14 and 15 after Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) was confirmed last week in two mule deer hunters claimed last month near Lucile. In the disease management zone, rules prevent hunters from removing carcasses containing brain or spinal tissue of deer, elk and moose, the Lewiston Tribune reported Tuesday. The commission also gave the Idaho Department of Fish & Game director the authority to establish special “surveillance hunts” in larger area that includes all of units 14, 15, and parts of 11A, 13, 18 and 23.

Details of the surveillance hunts were still being worked out at press time, but the idea is that a certain number of samples are needed and IDFG will sell discount tags to resident hunters in order to get enough samples from the right places. Anyone hunting in Unit 14 is encouraged to have any harvested deer or elk tested at no cost at any regional Fish and Game office. Turnaround time for Fish and Game’s CWD samples is about 4-6 weeks, and hunters can check Fish and Game’s website for results.

Word of the state’s first-ever confirmed CWD cases came Nov. 17, after the hunters were notified their two mule deer bucks harvested during October in the Slate Creek drainage tested positive.

CWD affects deer, elk, moose and reindeer, and is part of a group of brain diseases with potential health concern for people and other animals: mad cow disease in cattle, scrapie in sheep, feline spongiform encephalopathy in cats in Europe, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans.

CWD has been known to exist in the western United States for more than 40 years, and it is known to be fatal to deer, elk, moose and caribou. The Idaho Fish and Game Commission has been notified, as well as the Idaho Department of Agriculture, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Samples from the diseased mule deer were tested at the Colorado State University Veterinary Diagnostic Lab and are being verified by the National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are symptoms of CWD?

Symptoms in deer, elk, moose and caribou include excessive salivation, drooping head/ears, tremors, extremely low body weight, and unusual behavior, such as showing no fear of humans and lack of coordination. But CWD cannot be diagnosed strictly by symptoms because other diseases, or conditions, can also cause similar symptoms in an animal. Also, animals can be infected for months or years before showing symptoms.

What if someone sees an animal that appears to have CWD?

Fish and Game welcomes reports by hunters and citizens. A person should accurately document the location of the animal (GPS coordinates if possible) and report the species and gender, if known. Take pictures, if possible, and immediately contact the nearest Fish and Game regional office. Do not attempt to touch, disturb, kill or remove the animal.

Why is F&G concerned about CWD?

There is no cure for this fatal disease, and population impacts to Idaho’s elk, deer and moose herds are a major concern. Several CWD-positive states have documented population declines and shifts in age structures resulting in fewer mature bucks in herds with a high number of animals infected with CWD, or herds that have had CWD in the population for a long time.

What exactly is CWD?

CWD is a contagious disease that affects the nervous systems of deer, elk, moose and reindeer. CWD is believed to be caused by abnormal, misfolded forms of the prion protein accumulating within brain cells, which causes progressive damage to those cells and brain damage.

CWD has a very long incubation period (time between infection and observable disease) that typically takes at least 10 months for a deer or elk to show signs of illness.

CWD belongs to a group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). Other TSEs include mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy [BSE]) in cattle, scrapie in sheep, feline spongiform encephalopathy (FSE) in cats in Europe, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) and variant CreutzfeldtJakob (vCJD) in humans.