Iowa DNR taking steps to prevent chronic disease spreading in deer population

Environmentalists are working to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease that is being found in Iowa’s deer population.

Environmentalists are working to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease that is being found in Iowa’s deer population.

Chronic wasting disease is a deadly illness, said Dr. Dale Garner, chief of the Iowa Department of Natural Resource’s Wildlife Bureau.  He explained that the disease creates holes in an infected deer’s brain, causes the animal to lose bodily functions, and ultimately kills them.

Since there is no cure for the disease, and it can spread both from animal to animal and through environmental contamination (like urine, feces, and saliva), DNR officials are trying to be proactive.

“If we do nothing it’s just going to continue to spread,” said Dr. Garner.

To help identify how much the disease is spreading, hunters are being asked to turn over their harvests so officials can collect test samples, according to a statement from the Iowa DNR.

In the area of Harpers Ferry, Iowa, located in the northeast part of the state, 15 deer have turned up positive for chronic wasting disease, the statement said.

Dr. Garner explained that the big picture issue is protecting the population balance, which means protecting the health of the deer.

While there is no evidence to date that shows the disease can be transferred to humans, Dr. Garner explained that being proactive in stopping the spread is a way of “protecting us from unknowns.”

For hunters who are concerned about the health status of their harvests, there are multiple labs around the state that can perform testing.  However, Dr. Garner noted that the purpose of the DNR’s sampling “is not a food safety test.”

In the DNR’s statement, Dr. Garner advised against using piles of feed or salt-mineral licks to attract deer.

Illinois, Nebraska, Missouri and Wisconsin have been battling the spread of the disease as well, according to the DNR’s statement. Click here to learn more about the Illinois DNR’s management of the disease.

If you want to learn more about Iowa’s sample collection, or how chronic waste disease has spread, click here.