Chronic Wast­ing Dis­ease (CWD) sur­veil­lance update: as of Oct. 1

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - HUNTING SEASON - Courtesy Al­berta En­vi­ron­ment

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.

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