Saskatchewan hunters are being urged this hunting season to submit the heads of all deer, elk, moose and caribou carcasses for chronic wasting disease testing.
The Saskatchewan environment ministry, in partnership with the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation, is promoting the CWD testing program throughout the province.
In particular, hunters in high-priority wildlife management zones 9, 10, 2W, 35 and 37 are strongly encouraged to submit all mule deer and white-tailed deer heads for testing.
Long-term monitoring sites are being established in these zones to obtain more information about the presence and spread of the disease.
The province hopes to collect at least 300 samples in each of the zones to more accurately assess changes in the disease and help guide future management options.
The ministry is also looking for submissions in the boreal transition zone (wildlife management zones 43, 47, 48, 49, 50, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57 and 67) to help evaluate CWD risk in caribou.
“Hunters play an important role in supporting wildlife health and submitted more than 2,000 heads for CWD testing last year,” said provincial Environment Minister Dustin Duncan.
“Understanding how this disease spreads is critical in evaluating potential population impacts, and in developing disease management plans.”
Darrell Crabbe, executive director of the wildlife federation, said his organization will manage a number of drop-off sites this year to help augment the ministry program.
“Monitoring CWD in the province is beneficial for hunters, and an important indicator in managing our wildlife resources.”
CWD was discovered in provincial game farm animals in 1996. It spread to wild mule deer in 2000 and is now found in deer, elk and moose in 48 of Saskatchewan’s 83 wildlife management zones.
With the help of hunters, the ministry has been monitoring the spread and intensity of CWD for more than 20 years.
Hunters can help reduce the spread of CWD to new areas of the province by properly disposing of animal carcass waste.
Hunters are encouraged to field dress and quarter the carcass in the field instead of transporting it from the area where the animal was taken.
Although no human case of CWD has been identified, the ministry strongly recommends that hunters avoid eating the meat until they receive their test results.
In addition, hunters are strongly urged not to eat or distribute for human consumption the meat or other parts from animals that are found to be CWD-positive.
Heads from hunted animals can be submitted for testing at a designated drop-off locations across the province throughout the hunting season.
For a list of drop-off sites and information on how to submit a sample for testing, visit www.saskatchewan.ca/cwd.
Prior to dropping off heads, hunters are encouraged to get a CWD tracking number and keep the number on hand.