Fish and Game cutting deer density to reduce CWD risk
by Logan Finney, Idaho Reports
Nearly 300 deer have been killed in a small area of central Idaho as part of an Idaho Department of Fish and Game project to reduce animal density and decrease the risk of spreading chronic wasting disease.
IDFG described their operation alongside Wildlife Services staff from the U.S. Department of Agriculture as “a systematic and very coordinated removal of deer” that includes methods not typically used for hunting, including use of bait and shooting at night. The operation doesn’t allow for public hunting, though IDFG did issue kill permits to some local landowners.
More than 150 deer were harvested in the first week of the project, which is expected to last until the end of March. IDFG spokesperson Roger Phillips told Idaho Reports that 289 deer and 3 elk had been harvested as of March 1, with 19 whitetail deer testing positive for the disease out of the 163 results. The department expects to receive more test results later this week.
“Animals that test negative for CWD will be processed and donated to local food banks or directly (to) folks that could use the meat,” according to an IDFG press release. “Landowners can retain their deer but may also provide carcasses to Fish and Game for processing and donation.”
Although there is no evidence that the disease can occur in humans, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends against eating meat from an animal that tests positive for CWD.
The area, northeast of Riggins, “encompasses the Slate Creek watershed from the Salmon River east to Nut Basin Road and the southern portion of the McKinzie Creek watershed south to the northern portion of the John Day Creek watershed… less than 9 percent of Unit 14,” the release said.
In 2022, IDFG detected 15 positive cases of CWD in the Slate Creek drainage out of 3,171 deer, elk and moose sampled statewide. The department tested more than 2,500 animals for CWD in 2021 – when the first positive cases were discovered in the state – and has sampled more than 20,000 animals since 1997.
“There will be hunter harvest opportunities across Unit 14 this fall as part of our ongoing CWD harvest management strategies,” the release said.
Idaho Fish and Game:
CWD is a contagious and fatal neurological disease that affects deer, elk and moose. There is no cure, vaccine, or efficient and reliable CWD test for live, wild animals. CWD is long lived in the environment and can be contracted by animals simply foraging in an area with CWD in the soil. If left unchecked, the disease poses a long-term risk to deer and elk herds and hunting opportunities.
Logan Finney | Associate Producer
Logan Finney is a North Idaho native with a passion for media production and boring government meetings. He grew up skiing, hunting and hiking in the mountains of Bonner County and has maintained a lifelong interest in the state’s geography, history and politics. Logan joined the Idaho Reports team in 2020 as a legislative session intern and stayed to cover the COVID-19 pandemic. He was hired as an associate producer in 2021 and they haven’t been able to get rid of him since.