Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) surveillance update: as of Oct. 1
With the opening of fall hunting seasons, the ongoing annual CWD surveillance program also kicks into high gear. We heartily acknowledge and thank all those who help make this program such a success and look forward to your continued support.
For 2020/21 the basic program remains much the same as in the past, although there is a slightly different approach to designated mandatory zones (https://www.alberta.ca/assets/documents/aepcwd-freezer-location-list.pdf) in order to better support game management decisions. Mandatory areas on the Alberta/Saskatchewan border allow deer managers to track the trajectory and outcome of disease in areas where CWD has existed the longest and is likely to have its greatest effect on deer populations over time.
Mandatory areas along the northern and western edge of the areas where CWD is now enzootic (established) provide samples to track the continued spread of this invasive disease in our deer populations.
As in previous years during the rifle seasons, 24-hr freezers are placed strategically throughout the mandatory areas to make it easier for hunters to drop off heads for testing. Instructions and materials are provided at each freezer. Please remember to fill out BOTH sides of the green CWD labels with all the requested information. Also, please use one label for each head you submit but DO NOT take extra labels from the freezers. Leave them for other hunters to use.
Note that the head drop-off freezers are ONLY available from mid-October to mid-December. Deer heads can also be dropped off at Fish and Wildlife offices throughout the year during office hours. However, there may be COVID-19 limitations and hunters are encouraged to call an office to determine local head submission options. See page 13 of the 2020 Alberta Guide to Hunting Regulations for office locations and phone numbers. For further information, see: Chronic Wasting Disease – Information for Hunters. (https://www.alberta.ca/chronic-wasting-disease-information-for-hunters.aspx)
Regardless of test results, hunters are sent an email using the email address in their AlbertaRELM account. Hunters without an email address in their account are phoned only if the animal is positive for CWD.
The total number of CWD cases detected in wild deer in Alberta since September 2005 is 2,658.
Free CWD replacement licences no longer available
The original intent in offering replacement licences was to encourage hunters to return to areas of Alberta where CWD was first detected. However, hunter interest and harvest in the CWD area remains high and free replacement licences are no longer considered necessary.
Initially, very few harvested deer had CWD and thus very few replacement licences were offered. However, with increased prevalence and distribution of CWD, this is no longer the case.
Increasing numbers of hunters with a CWD replacement licence are creating a disproportionate harvest opportunity and advantage over those hunters who must build priority points to access a licence, particularly for antlered mule deer.
CWD occurs in pockets of localized deer, so hunters harvesting from the same small population each year are more likely to harvest an infected deer and gain access to annual free replacement licences. As the number of CWD cases increases over time, the number of replacement licences becomes disproportionate to the number of licences available to individuals who apply for draws, and limits the diversity of opportunity for broader populations of hunters who wish to have that opportunity.
CWD and human health
While there are no known cases of CWD in humans, health authorities recommend precautions. Additional information is available at: CWD and Public Health.
Thank you to hunters, guides and landowners
It is hard to believe we have been tracking this disease in wild deer in Alberta for over 20 years. Alberta began CWD hunter surveillance in 1998 and has one of the best continuous datasets documenting the occurrence and patterns of CWD in wild cervids, specifically in prairie / parkland ecosystems. The continued support of hunters, guides and landowners is the basis for the strength of our surveillance data.
The success of the CWD surveillance program relies heavily on participation by hunters, guides, and landowners to ensure a successful harvest that provides heads to be tested. We heartily acknowledge and thank all those who helped make the program so successful and look forward to your continued support.