Deer hunters asked to help monitor disease

Northwestern Ontario hunters are being asked to help the Ministry of Natural Resources conduct a monitoring program for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) this fall.
In exchange for donating the head of adult harvested deer, hunters will receive a crest as thanks for their assistance.
CWD is a degenerative, fatal brain disease that affects white-tailed deer, elk, and mule deer. It is not known to occur in Ontario.
But as a precautionary measure, the MNR is conducting a monitoring program for CWD in wild deer populations in parts of south-central and Northwestern Ontario.
Hunter participation in the MNR testing program is critical to the success of the Ontario monitoring efforts.
Sampling locations in Northwestern Ontario for 2006 are Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 5, 6, 7A, 7B, 8, 9A, 9B, 10, and 11A.
There is no practical way to test a live animal for CWD. Testing only can be done by examining the lymph nodes or brain of a dead animal, and only adult deer can be tested for this disease.
Starting yesterday (Oct. 10), hunters having their adult deer processed are asked to provide the head of the animal. Deer heads, with the seal attached, can be donated to MNR offices in Fort Frances, Dryden, and Kenora.
Hunters should take note that if they are transporting a deer carcass, they cannot legally remove the head before it is processed.
Hunters can deliver the deer heads to these offices during regular office hours Monday to Friday. Each office will post a notice at the entrance advising hunters how to contact the MNR staff who will assist them.
Hunters will be asked to provide the date and location of the harvest, as well as their contact information.
After Oct. 23, roving crews of MNR wildlife technicians will be visiting hunt camps to request samples from harvested adult deer.
Technicians will ask for permission to remove a small amount of tissue from the head area of the deer for analysis. The deer then will be returned to the hunter.
Please note this sampling will not prevent hunters from consuming the meat nor having the head mounted.
CWD is similar to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (also know as BSE, or “mad cow disease”) in cattle, however, there currently is no evidence that it can be transmitted to humans or to domestic livestock such as cattle, horses, and pigs.
Information about CWD can be found on the MNR’s website at
The co-operation of hunters is greatly appreciated by the ministry. Hunters will be notified of the test results as soon as they are available.
CWD has been reported in Alberta and Saskatchewan, as well as 14 U.S. states, but it is not known to occur in Ontario.
It appears to be caused by an abnormal protein called a prion. Prions are concentrated in the animal’s brain, spinal cord, lymph glands, tonsils, eyes, and spleen.
CWD can be spread by close contact between animals. Animals exposed to a CWD-contaminated environment also may become infected.
There is evidence the prions associated with the disease may remain infectious in the environment (e.g., soil) for years.
It can take months—and even years—from the time an animal is infected to when it shows signs of the disease.
Signs observed in deer or elk with CWD include:
•emaciation (loss of body weight and body condition);
•stumbling, lack of co-ordination;
•abnormal behaviour or indifference to human activity;
•difficulty or inefficiency in chewing or swallowing;
•increase salivation or drooling;
•increase drinking and urination;
•tremors; and/or
The following are recommended safe practices for handling and consuming wild deer:
•wear rubber gloves when field dressing carcasses;
•minimize the handling of brain and spinal tissue;
•minimize the handling of bones of the skull and spinal cord when processing their deer; and
•do not consume the brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils, and lymph nodes of harvested animals.