Mule deer in Idaho tested positive for CWD: what to know?

5 min read

Following the announcement of the first case of Zombie Deer Disease (ZDMD), also known as Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), which was first discovered in deer in Idaho’s Yellowstone National Park in 2021, alarms have been issued. As a result, new state regions have been affected by the disease, which is highly contagious and deadly.

There has been a case of chronic wasting disease found in a mule deer killed by a hunter in Game Management Unit 32A near McCall after it tested positive for the neurological disorder, chronic wasting illness.

As part of our efforts to better understand the extent and prevalence of chronic wasting illness, Fish & Game has carried out extensive tests over the last two years. This is because the condition had previously been suspected to be prevalent only in the animals associated with Unit 14 near Riggins.

Prion diseases are a group of diseases that have similar symptoms, including Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, mad cow disease, and other prion diseases. 

As a result of abnormal protein accumulation in the brain, chronic wasting disease, also known as zombie deer disease, can cause malnourishment, neurological problems, and strange behaviors in animals that suffer from this disease.

In order to protect the health of elk and deer in units 32A, 22–24, and 32, Fish and Game officials are requesting hunters to test their animals for chronic wasting disease before harvesting. Either by submitting the animal’s lymph nodes for testing or by taking the head to a regional office of Fish and Game, the animal can be tested. The Fish and Game website has instructions for removing lymph nodes that can be found on that site.

There are several health experts who believe that any animal that tests positive for chronic wasting disease should not be eaten, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition to the recommendation from the Department of Fish and Game that hunters use caution when handling harvested animals, the department suggests that hunters wear gloves, do not approach sick animals, and have them tested for chronic wasting disease in cases where the disease has been detected in the area.

The Nampa regional office or the McCall regional office of Fish and Game should be contacted, if roadkill deer or elk have been found along the US 95 route between Riggins and Weiser. Moreover, elk and deer in the local area must also be reported when they display any unusual behavior.

There are many more weeks of testing to be done on other animals, and Fish and Game will not be able to announce the results until much later, but the agency confirmed that this is the first confirmed case of chronic wasting syndrome in the autumn hunting season.

According to a press release released by Fish and Game Director Jim Fredericks on Wednesday, the agency will adopt a different approach when it comes to managing chronic wasting disease in the Unit 32A region. It is because deer in this unit often leave at the end of the autumn because most of them leave in the spring.

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