The Ministry of Environment is calling on hunters in Saskatchewan to participate in their testing program to monitor for signs of Chronic Wasting Disease.
The program is designed to help the ministry locate and track instances of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in the wild across Saskatchewan.
“CWD is a fatal, infectious, central nervous system disease that can affect deer, elk, caribou, and moose,” a press release issued by the Ministry of Environment read.
CWD was first detected in 2000 in mule deer. The disease has now been confirmed in 44 of the province's 83 wildlife management zones and in three of four cervid species. It has yet to be detected in caribou.
Hunters can help the ministry locate and track the disease by submitting the heads of their harvests to the ministry. Heads can be submitted for testing at a number of designated drop off locations around Saskatchewan throughout hunting season. A full list of locations can be found here.
When a head is submitted for testing, hunters receive a tag with an identification number which they can use to track the findings online.
Submitting heads helps the Ministry of Environment identify where the disease is in the province and how prevalent it is amongst the cervid populations. Submissions also help the ministry determine whether efforts to reduce the disease’s presence in the province are working or not.
Last fall, the ministry noted cases of CWD are becoming more prevalent. Between 1997 and 2003, roughly 11,000 samples were collected, with 12 testing positive for the disease. In 2016, 367 samples were collected and 40 tested positive for CWD.
In order to prevent further spread of the disease, hunters are encouraged to avoid transporting animal carcasses from the area where they were killed.
“If a carcass is transported, hunters are asked to dispose of it by double-bagging it and taking it to a landfill,” the press release read.
While there have been no confirmed cases of CWD making a jump to humans, research published last year indicated the disease is capable of making the transition to non-human primates, which means it is also capable of making the jump to humans.
Hunters are advised to avoid eating meat from animals which are untested, or those that have tested positive for CWD.
On Twitter: @BryanEneas
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