Deer hunters invest time and money honing their skills and buying the latest gear to pursue Iowa’s trophy whitetails. Hunters can protect their investment by helping to monitor for the presence of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in wild Iowa deer. Chronic wasting disease is a brain disease that can infect deer, elk, reindeer, and moose. The disease is always fatal, and at least one study has shown that it can have a population level impact on deer in Wisconsin, which has a similar landscape and deer population to Iowa.
State wildlife experts are working to make the sample collection process as easy and quick as possible. Hunters can call their local DNR wildlife expert who will meet them either in the field or at their residence to collect two lymph nodes from the head of the animal and a little information on where the deer was killed. That’s it.
Matt Dollison, wildlife biologist for the Department of Natural Resources in southwest Iowa, says “The only reason we need the location of the kill is in case the deer would come back as positive for CWD, we would know its location to create our surveillance focus zone.” The DNR has a goal of collecting 4,500 samples each year from across the state, with increased quotas from surveillance areas in counties that have had positive samples in pen raised deer, and in Allamakee County where positive samples have been found in wild deer. Hunter participation is voluntary.
In southwest Iowa, Dollison has an increased sample quota of 150 deer for northeastern Pottawattamie County and the very northwest portion of Cass County, where CWD has been found in a captive deer breeding pen. Unfortunately the DNR has struggled each year to reach half that number. Only adult deer are sampled and trophy bucks will not be sampled unless agreed to by the hunter and after it has been caped. Fawns will not be sampled.
Dollison says “We are working with the DOT to collect samples from road killed deer, but we need hunters to help us reach our targets. Disease monitoring isn’t exciting but it is important to help protect the herd and it’s something simple and easy hunters can do that directly benefits them and what they enjoy doing.” Dollison has placed fliers in local gas stations, meat lockers, and restaurants in an effort to get the word out.
“We want as many samples as possible,” Dollison said. “It’s imperative that hunters let us know as soon as possible after they recover the deer. The clock starts once the deer is down and time is our enemy on this. The sooner we can collect the sample, the better.”
Hunters in Pottawattamie, Cass, Mills, Montgomery, Fremont and Page counties can call:
- Matt Dollison: (712) 350-0147
- Jon Ross: (712) 350-0411
- Doug Phillips: (712) 350-0429
- Zac Ripperger: (712) 350-0350
- Carter Oliver: (712) 592-0573